Indiescape HK and the Post-Handover Film World–cfp

Ex-position Feature Topic Call for Papers
(Guest Editor: Kenny Kwok Kwan Ng, Hong Kong Baptist University)
Publication Date: December 2019 (Issue No. 42)
Submission Deadline: July 1, 2019

“Independent cinema” in Hong Kong has gained much currency both in academia and in film production and reception circles since the 1997 handover. Despite the fact that the term itself is frequently invoked in critical discourse and film festival programming, the meanings and contours of independent cinema as it is practiced in Hong Kong remain a matter of debate, except for the general consensus that being “independent” in moviemaking confers a disposition of distancing from the mainstream film industry in terms of styles, genres, modes of production and exhibition, financing, or public reception. Independent filmmakers can be bona fide auteurs who have greater control over the subject matter and stylistic choices of their works compared with their mainstream counterparts. Still, creative autonomy is never absolute and always comes with a cost. Filmmakers have to play by the rules of the emerging habitus of independent cinema, while the dynamic and ambivalent exchanges between independent and mainstream cinema are constantly at play in Hong Kong when an independent filmmaker (or film) enters mainstream production and circulation. Continue reading

Jia Zhangke as NPC deputy

Source: China Daily (4/5/19)
Filmmaker sees sector develop a new story
By Xu Wei | China Daily

Jia Zhangke, a key figure in China’s “sixth generation” of filmmakers, attends the launch event for his film Mountains May Depart, Still Life, with his wife and lead actress Zhao Tao. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Focusing the camera on people’s issues and giving them a voice mark NPC deputy’s creative approach to plotlines

For Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke, the role of a deputy to the National People’s Congress has given him a wider horizon, and an even deeper understanding of people and society.

Jia, an essential figure in China’s “sixth generation” of filmmakers and one of the country’s most inventive and engaged directors, has also found similarities between filmmaking and working as a lawmaker.

A native of Linfen, Shanxi province, Jia has long concerned himself with the effect of enormous social and economic forces on the experiences of individuals. Continue reading

‘Me and My Motherland’ to celebrate PRC’s 70th anniversary

Source: Global Times (3/21/19)
Chen Kaige’s new film project ‘Me and My Motherland’ to celebrate PRC’s 70th anniversary

From left: Chinese filmmakers Wen Muye, Xue Xiaolu, Zhang Yibai, Chen Kaige, Huang Jianxin, Guan Hu and Ning Hao pose for a photo at a media event for Me and My Motherland in Beijing on Wednesday. Photo: Liu Zhongyin/GT

“Back in 2008, my mother called me to ask if I was involved in preparations for the Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. I wasn’t then, but this time I can confidently say that I will be responsible right from start for producing Me and My Motherland,” Chinese director Zhang Yibai said at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday announcing his new film project.

Zhang, however, will not be alone. He is one of seven directors that will work on the film, an anthology that will tell different stories about ordinary Chinese during major historical moments since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, which will celebrate its 70th anniversary on October 1. Continue reading

Fantasy novel about antiques adapted for online series

Source: China Daily (3/14/19)
Fantasy novel about antiques becomes hit online series

A poster from the online series The Golden Eyes. [Photo provided to China Daily]

When veteran producer Bai Yicong occasionally “clicked” on a fantasy novel online in 2010, he could scarcely have thought that it would one day become one of his biggest-budget productions.

The work of fiction, titled Huangjin Yan, or The Golden Eyes, follows the adventures of a young pawnshop employee, who possesses the power to be able to see the past and future of every object he sees after his eyes are injured by a group of robbers.

Thus the protagonist becomes a legend in the antique world and an easy winner in gambling on stones, the practice of buying a raw rock and then cutting it open, with the hope of it holding some gems.

The story, penned by online writer Tang Yong, better known by his pseudonym Dayan, has accumulated more than 30 million views since its debut on China’s largest internet literature site Qidian in 2010.

“I was deeply attracted by the novel. It has a lot of riveting depictions about underground adventures, enriching my knowledge about antiques,” says Bai, sitting in his office located in eastern Beijing. Continue reading

Fifth Generation retrospective at HKIFF

Source: SCMP (3/12/19)
How China’s Fifth Generation filmmakers defied censorship and criticism to break new ground
New ways of storytelling and rich political allegories were the innovations that this new breed of maverick directors introduced. Bold in abstraction and symbolism, their films relied on images rather than dialogue for expression
By Richard James Havis

A still from Zhang Yimou’s directorial debut Red Sorghum (1988).

A still from Zhang Yimou’s directorial debut Red Sorghum (1988).

It has been 41 years since China’s Fifth Generation filmmakers started classes at the Beijing Film Academy, and 35 years since The Yellow Earth, directed by Chen Kaige and photographed by Zhang Yimou, changed the face of filmmaking in the country.

The Chinese film industry has modernised so quickly that the innovations this disparate group brought to filmmaking in the country, and the courage they showed in the face of censorship by the state authorities, has been all but forgotten.

A retrospective at this year’s Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) aims to set the record straight. The five-film retrospective presents classic early works by the Fifth Generation, including The Yellow Earth, Tian Zhuangzhuang’s semi-abstract masterpiece The Horse Thief, and the cheeky satirical comedy The Black Cannon Incident. Continue reading

How the trade war is affecting Hollywood

Source: ChinaFile (3/8/19)
Here’s How the Trade War Is Affecting Hollywood
By Ying Zhu

(China Photos/Getty Images) An audience watches a 3D movie at an IMAX theater in Wuhan, Hubei province, February 8, 2007.

In February 2017, the United States and China began renegotiating the five-year film pact that had limited the annual number of foreign film exports to China to 34 and the share of revenue payable to foreign-rights holders to 25 percent of gross box office. Hollywood wanted an increase in revenue-sharing films, a higher share of box-office receipts, and more access to key viewing windows in China’s ever-expanding film market. In January 2018, Beijing agreed to discuss “policies and practices that may impede the U.S. film industry’s access to China’s market,” and in April Chinese negotiators reportedly offered to raise annual quotas. But then the talks stalled amidst the contentious U.S.-China trade negotiations. And now, the same trade dynamics affecting products as diverse as soybeans and auto parts have hit Hollywood. Continue reading

Animated Encounters

My monograph, Animated Encounters: Transnational Movements of Chinese Animation 1940s-1970s, is in print now. Thank you all for providing me with the much-needed community support over the past 11 years!

For the table of contents, abstract, and preview, please see

Hope to see some of you soon at the annual conference of AAS in Denver!

Sincerely yours,

Daisy Yan Du <>

An Elephant Sitting Still review

Source: The New Yorker (3/6/19)
“An Elephant Sitting Still,” Reviewed: A Young Chinese Filmmaker’s Masterly Portrait of Political and Intimate Despair
By Richard Brody

Hu Bo, the director of “An Elephant Sitting Still,” is as much a documentarian as he is an aesthete. Photograph Courtesy KimStim

“An Elephant Sitting Still,” the 2017 film by the Chinese director Hu Bo that’s being released this Friday, is one of the greatest recent films; its mighty ambition and mighty power are suggested by its unusual length (it runs nearly four hours) and its distinctive, original style and tone. Yet it’s rooted in a familiar kind of story, a tale of the sort that lesser filmmakers could easily dramatize in familiar ways but which Hu expanded into a vision of life.

The movie, set in a grim and decrepit industrial town in northern China, is centered on a conflict among older high-school students, all around seventeen: a boy named Yu Shuai (Zhang Xiaolong) accuses another, Li Kai (Ling Zhenghui), of stealing his cell phone. Li’s best friend, a boy named Wei Bu (Peng Yuchang), comes to his defense. In a resulting hallway fight, Wei accidentally yet nonetheless gravely injures Yu Shuai, whose older brother, Yu Cheng (Zhang Yu), a local minor gangster, plots revenge, and Wei plots his escape. Continue reading

Tragic end of Shi Hui (1)

I am probably among a few still around who actually saw Shi Hui’ works. I remember being deeply touched by My Whole Life 我這一輩子 and Joys and Trepidations of Middle Age 哀樂中年 as a child and a teenager. Reading this article prompts me to think there is some similarity between Shi’s fate and that of Lao She–both seemed so eager to fit in with the PRC but both ended with a tragic suicide.

Lily Lee <>

Tragic end of Shi Hui

Source: SupChina (3/1/19)
The Tragic End Of Shi Hui, Maoist China’s Most Promising Actor-Director

Persecuted and misunderstood, Shi Hui was one of many individuals swept up and destroyed by the Anti-Rightist Movement. Chinese cinema is irrevocably poorer for it.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Shi Hui 石挥 was one of the most popular actors in China. Shi’s range was wide, and he portrayed a variety of mostly lower-class characters during his film career, playing a school principal, a tailor, a peasant soldier, a pimp, and even a (white) American capitalist. Whatever his role, Shi always brought depth and humanity to his characters, whether they were heroes or not. His performances in movies like Miserable at Middle Age 哀乐中年 and This Life of Mine 我这一辈子 were brilliant, and today, both movies still top lists of the most-acclaimed Chinese movies. Continue reading

Zhang Yimou’s ‘One Second” pulled from Berlin fest

Source: Variety (2/11/19)
Zhang Yimou’s ‘One Second’ Pulled From Berlin Festival Lineup


Zhang Yimou’s “One Second,” set during China’s 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, has been withdrawn from the Berlin Film Festival, where it was to premiere in competition. A post Monday on the film’s official Weibo social media site announced that the film had been yanked, saying that it was for “technical reasons.” The festival confirmed the information, and explained that the film had not been completed.

The move means that Berlin’s competition section will drop from 17 to 16 films. However, Berlin expects to play another, older, film by Zhang in the same time slot on Friday, albeit out of competition. Sources close to the festival said that Zhang’s 2002 art-house actioner “Hero” will fill the slot. Continue reading

Wandering Earth and the Chinese millennial

Wandering Earth has received a lot of attention domestically in China and abroad. While most people have talked about its special effects and particularly Chinese cultural elements, few people have talked about what it says about Chinese millennials.–Lee Mack <>

Source: White (2/26/19)
Wandering Earth and the Chinese Millennial

There’s a new Chinese movie out – Wandering Earth. Chinese people are pretty excited about it. It made a bajillion RMB during Spring Festival. It’s currently the second-highest rated film on Douban. It’s been written about extensively by Western media, which unanimously crowned it “China’s first sci-fi blockbuster”. It accomplished the rare feat of uniting both Western film critics and Chinese government officials in praise. Intrigued, I went to see it. I did find something very interesting in it, but not what you might expect.

The film’s set-up goes something like this. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, Earth is falling apart. This is due to the sun, which is dying. In fact, things have gotten so bad, humanity has migrated to underground cities. You now need a space suit to go to the surface. A global government has mobilized and built 20,000 rocket thrusters on the surface of the planet, turning Earth in effect into a giant spaceship. The idea is to navigate our way to another solar system, a trip which will take a thousand generations. Unfortunately, around Jupiter, something goes wrong, Earth is sucked into Jupiter’s gravitational pull and it’s going to slam into it in 36 hours. Unless someone saves the day. Cue unlikely-but-ultimately-heroic effort. Continue reading

Zhai Tianlin’s doctorate revoked

Source: China Daily (2/19/19)
Zhai’s doctorate revoked after investigation
By Zhang Yangfei |

Actor Zhai Tianlin. [Photo/IC]

Beijing Film Academy has revoked the doctoral degree of actor Zhai Tianlin after he was found to have committed academic misconduct, the academy announced on Tuesday.

As stated by the academy, the investigation team found in a dissertation Zhai published while pursuing his PhD in the academy, Zhai used the viewpoints of other experts but didn’t give credit, which showed Zhai didn’t act normatively and precisely in his academic work. Zhai’s tutor, Chen Yi, also showed negligence on academic ethics and norms and failed to guide and review the dissertation in a responsible manner, the academy said. Continue reading

Guo Xuebo’s “Mongolia” synopsis

Source: (2/17/19)
Synopsis: “Moŋgoliya,” A Contemporary Novel of Strip Mining, Quests for the Altaic Soul and Social Justice
By Bruce Humes

Moŋgoliya《蒙古里亚》 郭雪波 著
Original novel in Chinese by Guo Xuebo
Synopsis by Bruce Humes

A tale of ruthless ecological exploitation,
a 20th-century European explorer’s fascination with Altaic culture
& epiphany in today’s Inner Mongolia

Guo Xuebo, author of “Moŋgoliya”

This semi-autobiographical novel comprises three parallel narratives that eventually intersect in 21st-century Inner Mongolia: A spiritual journey, in which the author — ostensibly the narrator — seeks his Shamanic roots, long obscured in post-1949, officially atheist China; vignettes from the Xinjiang and Mongolian adventures of Henning Haslund-Christensen, born to a Danish missionary family in 1896, explorer and real-life author of the anthropological masterpiece Men and Gods in Mongolia; and the tribulations of Teelee Yesu, a fictional modern-day Mongolian herdsman, seemingly the village idiot, whose very survival is threatened by the encroaching desert and coal mine truckers running roughshod over his tiny tract of pastureland.

Motifs interwoven throughout the tale include the affinities between the peoples of Europe and the Mongols, despite the sedentary lifestyle of the former and nomadic ways of the latter; the fusion of Shamanism and Buddhism over the centuries; two different quests, the narrator’s for the origins of his soul, and the foreign adventurer’s for the essence of steppe culture; and the exploitation and degradation of the grasslands by political powers over the centuries — first the Manchu, then the Japanese and Han — that is in stark contrast to the Mongolian veneration of Nature as sacred and endowed with sentient spirits. Continue reading