Documenting Development in China: Community Media from Tibetan Qinghai

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Film Screening of Yak Dung (牛粪) and Sunlight on the Pilgrimage (超神路上的阳光)

Monday, April 4, 2016
2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Young Research Library
Main Conference Room (Room 11360)

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Q&A with directors Chen Xueli and Li Xin

This event showcases two recent documentary films by first-time Tibetan filmmakers from Qinghai province, China. These works were produced through community media training workshops organized by From Our Eyes, a cultural heritage and participatory video NGO based in Kunming, Yunnan Province. The film screenings, including the award-winning feature-length documentary Yak Dung and a documentary short by a young Tibetan student, will be followed by discussion with two co-directors of From Our Eyes and an anthropologist researching rural media in ethnic minority China.

Yak Dung (牛粪)

2010/Color/DV/50 minutes
Directed by Lance
Filmed in Guolou (Golog), Qinghai
With temperatures falling as low as -40º C on the plateau, yak dung is a valuable source of warmth for herdsmen. A non-polluting fuel, it is used to burn offerings to the gods and light oil lamps. Dung can be used to build houses and walls. It is the natural fertilizer of the grasslands, and it can be used as medicine and for washing clothes. Children can even make toys out of it, while artists sometimes sculpt figurines of the Buddha out of the material. The quality of the dung is an indicator of the environmental health of the plateau and the yaks that roam it. In short, for those of us who live on the plateau, dung is something we cannot live without. But the day we will have to live without it is getting nearer and nearer, and that day we will no longer be ourselves. Its loss would signal disaster, and would pit us against nature. When that time comes, our compassion, benevolence and sense of karma will also be doomed. Filmmaker Lance is a Tibetan herdsman from Qinghai Province. This is his first documentary; Yak Dung has screened at festivals across China and in Sydney, New York, and Toronto.

Sunlight on the Pilgrimage (超神路上的阳光)
2014/Color/HDV/30 minutes
Directed by Tuding Sanbao
Filmed in Yushu, Qinghai
Shot near the filmmaker’s hometown in Yushu prefecture, Qinghai province, this film depicts the filmmaker and his friends undertaking a pilgrimage to circumambulate a sacred mountain. As the young Tibetans embark on this deeply collective and spiritual journey, Sunlight on the Pilgrimage reveals how Tibetan youth continue in the footsteps of their family and community while reveling in the physicality and camaraderie created by the experience itself. This film was produced as part of the first documentary film training workshop organized by From Our Eyes with students at a Tibetan vocational school in Qinghai.

Event Participants:
Jenny CHIO is a cultural anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker. She is an assistant professor of Anthropology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Her current research examines vernacular media practices, including amateur and semi-professional videography and documentary filmmaking, in rural, ethnic minority communities in Guizhou, Yunnan, Guangxi, and Qinghai. She has also conducted extensive fieldwork on tourism, ethnicity, and rural development in China, published as her book A Landscape of Travel: The Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China (U Washington Press, 2014) and her film, 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness (Berkeley Media, 2013).

CHEN Xueli is a visual anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker. He is Associate Professor of Ethnology and Director of the Visual Anthropology Laboratory at Yunnan University, in Kunming, China. He is also one of the founding board members for From Our Eyes (乡村之眼乡土文化研究中心) and has worked with numerous participatory media projects in rural ethnic minority communities since the 1990s. His films have been screened in China and Europe, and his most recently published book is Ethnography of Ethnographic Films: Reviewing No More Bound Feet and The Grandma with Bound Feet in My Hometown (Minzu Press, 2015).

LI Xin completed graduate studies in visual anthropology at Yunnan University and teaches Media Arts at the Yunnan Arts Institute, in Kunming, China. His films have shown at festivals in Europe and China, and he has participated in invited workshops, residencies and fellowships in Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia. As a one of the co-founders of From Our Eyes (乡村之眼乡土文化研究中心), he has worked with and trained first-time filmmakers from rural Yunnan, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Guangxi since 2009. His latest documentary film, Badi Dialogues, is based on his experiences filming in a Baiku Yao village in Nandan county, Guangxi, in March 2015.

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies