Film Festival - Reel China: Six Nights of New Chinese Documentaries
At UCLA every Wednesday, October 13 - November 17, 2004
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
6:30 PM - 9:30 PM
1422 Melnitz Hall
The Critical Studies, Department of Film and Television at UCLA presents Reel China: Six Nights of New Chinese Documentaries. This screening series is part of the ongoing fall 2004 REEL CHINA: New Chinese Documentary Festival in New York and Boston.
It is perhaps not until late 1980s when documentary filmmaking in China started to realize the medium's major raison d'etre as social expression and critique in the most grassroots way possible. The appearance of such new documentaries - termed as the "New Documentary Movement" (xin jilu yundong) in China - is the combined result of a number of factors: a general mixed sense of hope and loss amidst an era of dramatic change; greater freedom in the economic sector plus technological advancement in digital media that makes independent and amateur filmmaking increasingly possible, etc. This is a movement that does not have a conscious manifesto but has doubtless grown out of the collective psyche of China around the turn of the century.
The films selected for this screening series thus contain a variety of visions on the Chinese reality, almost always individual on the surface but collective in depth. Here you will see the daily life and worries of migrant workers in a small town near Guangzhou, brilliant amateur filmmaking by some villagers in Jiangxi, a retired barber in Beijing, two railway station chiefs, dancing farm workers, homeless adolescents on the railway and self-armed Chiru protectors on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, etc. All these lives and their backgrounds, their laughter and tears, their hopes and misfortunes, provide an intimate glimpse at the real contemporary China.
An extended function of these screenings might be that they could serve as a comparing or contrasting basis for other modes of contemporary Chinese cinema, be it Zhang Yimou's extravaganza piece of cinema technology "Hero," or the seemingly already dated group of recent Sixth Generation filmmakers. The big picture of contemporary Chinese cinema is doubtless painted with diverse colors, so diverse that one still does not know how to satisfyingly categorize them all. However diverse and personal the pictures are, we can attempt to achieve a certain circumspection on them by bearing C.G. Jung's words in mind: "A collective problem, if not recognized as such, always appears as a personal problem." That leaves one to ponder to what extent these individual films on individual Chinese reflect that bigger entity called China.
Houjie Township (2002, 80m, dir. ZHOU Hao)
The story takes place in a small town called Houjie near Guangzhou. It has transformed from a rural village to an industrialized and commercialized town. It all follows the massive ventures of Taiwan and Hong Kong in the 1980's. The story relates the precarious position of those migrant workers who build Houjie to the forever risk of being laid off and being the first victims of post September 11 economic slowdown in globalization.
Grandpa Jing and His Old Clients (2003, 55m, dir. SHI Runjiu)
Grandpa Jing is about to celebrate his 87th birthday. He is the most constant man. For so many years, he has been living in the Shishahai District, the heart of the old Beijing where he has been a barber for 70 years. He had already owned a small barber shop in a commercial street of Di'anmen before 1949. Today, in spite of his senility, he still continues to cut hair and shave beards. But instead of working his scissors in the barber shop, he offers in house service for his clients.
DV China (2002, 92m, dir. ZHENG Dasheng)
Since the early 90s, the villagers in Jindezheng, led by Zhou Yuanqiang, creative director of the local cultural center, have learned all the techniques of film production: script writing, casting, shooting, montage and even special effects. With great enthusiasm they have already produced 18 serials although they lack equipments and are short of budget. The energetic director Zhou Yuanqiang initiates a new challenge for his enthusiastic and amateur actors: their first Kung-fu serial. This documentary follows the production of this new serial and their difficulties of fund raising, resolving the technical problems and interpersonal relations among themselves.
Walk-on Roles (2002, 75m, dir. ZHU Chuanming)
There are a gang of urban young loafers. They proclaim themselves as movie walk-on roles, but always kill time before the gate of Beijing Film Studio. Then they go back to their rented shabby cabin on the outskirts, spending whole nights flirting naive girls with filthy jokes, playing cards or watching blue video. Li Wenbo, Bao Hehua and Wang Gang are inclined to dreaming of success of their movies and millions of dollars. But every time when they give a thought about their next meal or their rent, they sink into the stark reality.
Out of Phoenix Bridge (1997, 110m, dir. LI Hong)
Four girls from countryside live in a tiny crammed room in Beijing. Long hours of hard work and miserable living condition turned out to be their happiest years of their lives when they enjoy the most freedom. The prize-winning film follows the rising and falling of hopes and dreams as they reluctantly return to the closed world of their hometowns and future husbands. This film won the Ogawa Shinsuke Award of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, Japan, 1997,.
TBA: Following the screening is a discussion with Prof. LU Xinyu, Fudan University, author of Documenting China: The Contemporary Documentary Movement in China (2003).
Along the Railroad (2001, 126m, dir. DU Haibin)
It was winter 2000 in Baoji City, Shanxi Province. A group of waifs and strays were playing on the dump ground of the railway station. These new peripheral people of modern China came from all over the country. In the daytime, they wandered in the city and in the evening they slept along railways. To make a living, they gleaned and collected scraps or empty bottles to sell for a few bucks. Among them, Zhou Fu drifted to Baoji because he had lost his money and ID card; Li Xiaolong and Huo Hongchang had escaped f! rom the Detention Center For Street Kids; Little Yunnan had been maltreated by his former boss; Feng Xiang had decided to run away from home because of forced marriage imposed by his parents. They spent the first Chinese Lunar New Year in the new century with such a big family reorganized along the railway.
San Yuan Li (2003, 44m, dir. OU Ning and CAO Fei)
This is a case study of a typical village-amid-the-city phenomenon in the process of the urbanization of Guangzhou. It is presented by Ou Ning and Cao Fei under the commission of the 50th Venice Biennale. This work samples San Yuan Li Village. The crew penetrates San Yuan Li Village as "City Flaneur", rethinking back into the depth of its history, the confrontation and reconciliation between the process of modernization, and the patriarchal clan system as well as the rural community system in Guangdong. The bizarre architectures and views of humanity have been captured, all encapsulated into this black-and-white cine-poem.
The Happy Life (2002, 90m, dir. JIANG Yue)
Zhengzhou Railway Station is China's largest rail hub. Massive migration population bustle and flow in the station where no order can be permanently maintained. Two characters of the story: Mr. Fu Jiansheng and Mr. Liu Yongli, both work in the station. Since his wife's death, Fu Jiansheng lives in the past, all his hopes turns to memories. While Liu Yongli is not an idealistic man, nor a man driven by his dreams, he only waits and hopes to lead a modern life. This story recaptures the scenes of their daily concerns and their desires. We, as audience, will have deeper understanding of their spiritual and material lives today and their unrealistic confrontation with reality.
Dance with the Farm Workers (2001, 57m, dir. WU Wenguang)
The film is about an unconventional performance withr the same title. The project involved not only actors and dancers, but also 30 Beijing farm workers from poor regions of Sichuan Province. Both the rehearsal and the performance took place in a production hall of a former textile factory that could soon be torn down as part of Beijing's rapid modernization, like thousands of such production halls. Those strong farm laborers, who ca! me to the city after losing their hopes in their hometowns, are the supporting pillars of the modernization. The performance was initiated and organized by choreographer Wen Hui, artists Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, and filmmaker Wu Wenguang. They invited 10 professional dancers and actors as well as 30 farm laborers working on the building sites in Beijing whose only wishes were to get paid 30 Yuan a day. It was only later that they discover that the lowest of "the lower class" would be standing at the center stage and making a statement.
Equilibrium (2000, 150m, dir. PENG Hui)
The beautiful and rigid Kekexili region on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is a main habitat of Chiru, a rare and first-grade animal under state protection. The region is a well-known wild life protection zone in China. In 1980's, groups of poachers, driven by greediness, swarmed into Kekexili and killed Tibetan Chirus. Ten years later, the number of Chirus decreased by two thirds. Su Nan Da Jie, the head of the party Committee of the county, who was in charge of environmental protection in the area, was killed by 18 poachers in an effort to arrest poachers. To succeed his undertakings, Zha Ba Buo Jie, Su Nan Da Jie's brother-in-law and who is also a good hunter, resolutely resigned from his position in the Prefecture People's Congress and organized a "Western Wild Yak Team" for wild animal protection. However, when various communities were extending their helping hands to "Western Wild Yak Team" and when Zha Ba Du Jie was set to begin his big undertaking, he suddenly disappeared in the vast wildness along with the back-view of a flying eager.
All films will be screened in DVD or VHS format with English subtitles
Parking: Free on Loring Ave. (south of Sunset Blvd., east of Hilgard Ave. at Charing Cross Rd.) after 6 pm daily. $7 in Lot 3, adjacent to Melnitz Hall. Purchase parking at the Wyton Dr. entrance to UCLA (at Wyton Dr. and Hilgard Ave.) before 7pm, or at the Lot 3 gate after 7pm.
Organized by: Critical Studies, Department of Film and Television, UCLA
Thanks to: REC Foundation/Dept. of Cinema Studies, NYU
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Sponsor(s): UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television