Creative consultancy group Spirit House and movie-loving coffee spot Vienna Café are putting together an entire months-worth of indie documentary film screenings to “share with Shanghai those fragments and viewpoints that we normally do not see, a different side of China, another state of life.”
The films are scheduled to be screened every Thursday evening from February 10th (today) onwards at the Vienna Café. The schedule, in its entirety, looks like this:
10 Feb 2011: Opening Film
Snippets 碎片 By Yan Junjie 顏俊傑, (84min/2005)
Synopsis: A meditation of life and documentary film through fragments of the director’s own four years spent at a Chinese university, depicting the state of the “post 80s” generation.
17 Feb 2011: The Question of Ethnicity: Documentaries Made by Ethnic Peoples
My Mountain Vulture 我的高山禿鷲 By Tashi Samge & Zhoujie 扎西桑俄, 周傑(Tibetan), Lv Bin 呂賓(20min/2010)
Synopsis: A documentary about two Tibetan lamas’ effort to protect mountain vultures, which unfolds a spiritual world of Tibetan Buddhists and their relationship with Nature.
Yimi Away from Home 離開故土的“依咪”（祖母屋）By Erqing(Moso), 爾青（摩梭族）(25min/2009)
Synopsis: For the Mosos in Luguhu, Yunnan, every family has a spiritual house where all the most important rituals in life are practiced in, e.g. weddings, funerals. When a foreigner offers to buy a family’s spiritual house and to bring it back to Beijing to be exhibited, the family decides to do so, but it also changes their lives.
The two films are sponsored by Bama Mountain Culture and Shanshui Conservation Center. A discussion with some of their associates will be followed after the screening.
24 Feb 2011: A state of life: Psychiatric Asylum Patients and A Real Estate Developer
Cultural Revolution II 紅藍 Zhang Tian’ai, 張天艾 (27min/2008)
Synopsis: The documentary portrays Feng Lun, a new Chinese hearo-a Capitalist – and his contradictions, during a period when he is negotiating to set up a China centre on the top floors of the new Freedom Tower, the rebuilt WTC in New York.
The 7th Medical Ward 七區病房 Zhang Tian’hui, 張天輝 (44min/2008)
Synopsis: The 7th Medical Ward, or “110 Medical Ward” is a psychiatric asylum in Xiamen that collects mental patients who have no jobs, no family and nowhere to go. The documentary portrays the state of life in the asylum.
25 Feb 2011: City and its Attitude, Spirit and Soul
The City Symphony 城市交響樂團 By Yao Yuan and Ding Xuan, 姚遠，丁旋 (48 min/2009)
Synopsis: A documentary about City Symphony, a Shanghai-based amateur orchestra with members from all walks of life in Shanghai.
Being a fan of indie cinema and Chinese documentaries, we were quite excited to chat with one of the organizers, Xing Zhao, about what we’ll see and why specific movies were chosen.
How were the movies selected?
We want to show to the Shanghai audience different states of life in China and different images of China. Most of the movies that we normally watch show this vast and diverse country from a Western perspective. All the movies that we are going to show were made by Chinese directors.
So we have movies about two Tibetan lamas’ effort to protect mountain vultures, about a psychiatric asylum in Xiamen or about a Shanghai City Symphony orchestra. All of the movies show different states of life in China. The movies we selected are not very popular, lacking exposure to the public.
What is the state of the Chinese independent cinema? What we know is that little is known about it both in China and abroad.
Even though privately financed cinema has been allowed in China since the mid-1990s, Chinese filmmakers still face tense relations with the government and censorship remains a big problem for most of them. There are hardly any opportunities for the movies to be shown in the cinemas.
Independent film directors haven’t really been yet exposed to the media and the audience. They are usually made on low budget and have no chances of being advertised. They are only shown at film festivals and NGO’s events.
Most of the indie movies are made in the Yunnan province, as it is the most culturally and ethnically diverse part of China. Also, the filmmakers in Yunnan don’t face so harsh censorship as in the other provinces. The most famous and biggest indie film festival is held in the Yunnan province every year, which gives an opportunity for the indie movies to be shown to the public.
What can we expect from the movies that will be shown?
All the movies that we have chosen to show give different perspectives on the life in China. The film directors are young and very talented; their perspectives on life are neutral. The movies we are going to show are independent from official ideology and government control, as the lack of the formal distribution does not request these movies to undergo through any formal censorship process.
With this month long event, we are hoping to bring in different images of life in China and
to raise discussions about the state of the Chinese people among the public. These movies focus on controversies and social problems concerning politics, public life and society. This is one of the few chances you will get in Shanghai to watch some of the best indie movies made in China.