In recent years, independent Chinese cinema has experienced an astonishing resurgence. Digital equipment has allowed filmmakers to be bolder, more daring, and to explore hybrid forms of documentary and fiction, and mix found and live footage while playing with varied formal strategies. Reaching beyond nostalgia and social protest, emerging filmmakers are plumbing surprising corners of Chinese reality with humor that is alternately light, dark, saucy, dry, raunchy, and conceptual.
Museum of the Moving Image will present a weekend-long series, Tales from the New Chinese Cinema, from April 29 through May 1, comprised of six feature films and two short works that showcase some of the most exciting and important filmmakers to emerge in recent years. The series was curated by Bérénice Reynaud (Co-Curator, Film at REDCAT) and Cheng-Sim Lim.
The films in the series are notable for their sharp contemporary sensibilities and their bold formal inventiveness. Among the emerging directors to be featured during the series are: Zhu Wen, a novelist turned filmmaker whose film Thomas Mao charts the Culture Clash between an American painter and a Chinese "hillbilly"; Li Wongqi, whose deadpan slacker comedy Winter Vacation has been a hit on the international film festival circuit; Li Jiayin, whose stunning and audacious feature film Oxhide II was filmed in just nine long takes in her parents' cramped apartment; Hao Jie, director of the bawdy rural sex comedy Single Man; Huang Weikai, director of the dazzling city symphony Disorder; and Lu Chuan, whose powerful City of Life and Death is a breathtaking dramatization of the Japanese army's occupation of the former Chinese capital, a violent period known as the Rape of Nanking.
Tales from the New Chinese Cinema is presented in collaboration with REDCAT (The Roy and Edna Disney / CalArts Theater), Los Angeles Filmforum, Echo Park Film Center, Pomona College Museum of Art / Media Studies, and UCLA Film & Television Archive.
SCHEDULE FOR ‘TALES FROM THE NEW CHINESE CINEMA,' APRIL 29-MAY 1, 2011
All screenings take place at Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35 Avenue, Astoria, NY) and are included with Museum admission.
Thomas Mao (Xiao Dongxi)
Friday, April 29, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 1, 5:00 p.m.
Dir. Zhu Wen, 2010, 80 mins. Digital projection. One of the most original voices of post-socialist China, novelist/filmmaker Zhu Wen has crafted, for his third feature, a droll, surreal and ironic tale in which East meets West... or does it? Thomas is a painter trekking through the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, and Mao, the scruffy "innkeeper" who lodges him. Gradually, what appears to be "reality" shifts. Who is the butterfly, who is the philosopher? "An intellectually teasing absurdist comedy with a touch of Zen, Thomas Mao ostensibly dramatizes the culture shock between a Chinese hillbilly and an American backpacker but goes beyond that to smudge the boundaries between art and life, dream and reality."-Hollywood Reporter
Zhu Wen (born 1967) became one of the figureheads of the "newly-born generation" literary movement with his first novella, I Love Dollars (1996). After his collaboration with Zhang Ming (In Expectation, 1995) and Zhang Yuan (Seventeen Years, 1999), he turned to directing with Seafood (2001), the first Chinese narrative digital feature (Grand Jury Prize in Venice). His second film, South of the Clouds (2003), won the NETPAC Award in Berlin.
Preceded by 21G (21 KE)
Dir. Sun Xun, 2010, 27 mins. Digital projection. A disturbing and enchanted voyage through what the filmmaker describes as "world without specific time... in which we live in vanity... There is no law, no rule... lying and being lied to only..."
After studying printmaking at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, Sun Xun (born 1980) founded the animation studio Pi in 2006. His meticulous animations have been shown in festivals in China, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, and media art centers in the US. His drawings and installations have been exhibited in galleries and museums in China, Europe and the U.S. 21G premiered at the Venice Film Festival.
Oxhide II (Niupi II)
Saturday, April 30, 2:00 p.m.
Dir. Liu Jiayin, 2009, 133 mins. Digital projection. World premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2004, at 23, Liu Jiayin stunned the world by shooting Oxhide (Niupi) in CinemaScope in her parents' 50-square-meter apartment. She returns with an even bolder "sequel." More tightly constructed-nine shots that go around a kitchen/workshop/dining table in 45-degree increments, performing a complete 180-degree match-Oxhide II is also dryly humorous, intelligent, and insightful, deconstructing the dynamics of a family in crisis. David Bordwell called the film "a masterpiece... inventive, quietly virtuosic," while Peter Rist (Offscreen) described Liu as "arguably the most interesting new Chinese director to emerge since Jia Zhangke."
Liu Jiayin (born in 1981) studied screenwriting at the Beijing Film Academy from 1999 to 2006, and is now part of the faculty of her alma mater. While getting her M.A., she wrote, directed, shot, and edited her first film, Oxhide (2004) which revealed her as one of the most original directors of her generation and won a flurry of international awards (FIPRESCI Prize and Caligari Award in Berlin).
Disorder (Xian Zai Shi Guo Qu De Wei Lai)
Saturday, April 30, 5:00 p.m.
Dir. Huang Weikai, 2009, 58 mins. Digital projection. A splendid, original experiment in translating urban texture onto the screen. Huang Weikai collected more than 1,000 hours of footage shot by amateurs and journalists in the streets of Guangzhou. He then selected about twenty incidents, reworked the images into quasi-surreal grainy black-and-white, and montaged them to create a kaleidoscopic view of the great southern metropolis, in all its vibrant chaos. "Aesthetically mesmerizing," wrote The Leap, a leading contemporary art magazine in China.