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I haven’t seen the biopic on Confucius, Kongzi yet, but I can already tell it’s going to be a doozy. Chow Yun-fat’s omniscient face looming in the heavens on the film poster, and his self-bemused, wizened sage smirk on the film stills is one hint, and recent dogged attempts at drumming up nationalism through culture and the arts is another.
Since I am not a Chinese, and non-Chinese are simply not allowed to mock things Chinese (especially Kongzi) even in good spirit, I figure I’ll do like other bloggers and just rip off Han Han’s brilliant post this morning, entitled, “Watching Kongzi.” Read the Chinese here: 韩寒： 《看孔子》
“…To tell you the truth, I’ve never thought there was a need to turn these classic stories into films. From a film perspective, the moment such films are born, they become the antithesis filmmaking, strangling creativity. But if you say that China’s movies with classical-historical themes show no creativity, that’s not right either, because those scriptwriters are often writing incredibly counter-historical scenes, the situation is tangled. And thus the reason why a vast majority of big-budget Chinese films are borrowing classical themes and historical figures is because their investors have lack a sense of security, they hesitate to invest such a great amount of money on some plotline dreamed up by some dubious director. Occasionally, there comes along a director who has an enormous investment, and the freedom to write their own screenplay––the resulting films are even worse. And such is China’s tragic history of film. According to Chou Yun-fat, people who watch this movie and don’t cry cannot be human, I can believe this is his delusion, and I’m sure that during the in-house screenings, all of the producers cried. They cried thinking about how many elementary school students and governmental organizations they will have to drag to the theaters just to break even.
Let’s forget about all political reasons and look at the film itself, it is a failure of a film. The sermonizing in the film isn’t infective at all, when Kongzi is talking about propriety and benevolence in the film, the guy next to me was having a ten-minute long conversation on his cell phone. …
Finally, I want to say that the film Kongzi, no matter if it’s from the point of view of the significance of film, profits, artistic pursuits, film exploration, educational enlightenment, warning or admonishing the public, audio-visual experience, entertainment, or documentation of history, there is no need for this film to exist. This film could be erased completely from film history.”
Despite all this, I’m still happy that Avatar was pulled from the theaters just to make room for this film.
The illusion of global culture has been shattered by recent events with Google.cn, and Hillary’s speech on the “freedom to connect.” China’s official response to “so-called Internet freedom” makes me shudder, are we truly entering a virtual cold war? At the very least, films like this should prove the national agenda is still filtered through culture, remember Founding a Nation? At the least, its one more attempt by China’s film industry to harmonize ticket sales and pleasing the film censors. Yes, I will see Kongzi, because who can’t appreciate the wry irony of watching the former “God of Gambling” play the sagely man of morals Confucius? It’s like a national face lift. Well, I’ll see in on DVD anyways…
The feelings of the Chinese have been hurt once again, but this time, they demand an apology.
Five days ago three Chinese filmmakers withdrew their entries into the Melbourne International Film Festival, most prominently was Jia Zhangke (the World, Platform), Tang Xiaobai (aka Emily Tang), and Zhao Liang (a rising documentarian). The film behind the hurt feelings and the withdraws is “Ten Conditions of Love,” by Melbourne film-maker Jeff Daniels, it is a documentary, filmed over seven years, that tells of Rebiya Kadeer’s relationship with her activist husband Sidik Rouzi and the impact her campaigning had on her 11 children. Rebiya Kadeer is a Uigyher activist and advocate who has been demonized by Chinese media as the driving force behind the recent riots in Xinjiang. For readers who can’t make out the Chinese animosity towards her, we could compare her role in China to that of Osama bin Laden in the US.
Many Jia Zhangke fans overseas were shocked and dissapointed that he would make such a polical decision, but according to this writer’s gossip channels, the film-making community in Beijing seems overwhelmingly convinced that the decision was made from coercion. Considering Jia Zhangke is filming his first attempt at a blockbuster hit, a kung fu film, can we really doubt the motivation behind his withdraw from the MIFF? The nationalist fervor surrounding the issue seems to guarantee his investors would demand his withdraw.
Demonstrating the harmonious feelings of all Chinese, the first paragraph of the China Daily report reads as follows: “Chinese directors Jia Zhangke and Tang Xiaobai say they have quit the biggest film festival in Australia because of personal beliefs - - not because of any pressure from the Chinese government.” (Source China Daily) Tang Xiaobai was quoted elsewhere saying that she was practicing “self-restraint” by pulling out from MIFF; Zhao Liang, whose entry was a documentary film on petitioners who come to Beijing to voice their grievances to the deaf ears of central government, has stayed relatively silent on the issue. His film Petition, already touches on sensitive issue in Beijing, perhaps its easy to understand why he remains silent.
Everyone is feeling the pressure these days: according to news sources, director of MIFF Richard Moore received a phone call from the Melbourne-based Chinese consulate last week.
“She told me that she was ringing to urge me to withdraw the particular film (more…)
Chinese independent cinema confronts a long list of unique problems, lack of funding, intolerance for many issues deemed sensitive on the mainland, lack of distribution channels and theatres, and a discombobulated audience. At lastm consider these last two problems on the way to being solved, the opening of the “Chinese Independent Film Archive” at the Iberia Center for Contemporary Art has provided venue, and enthusiastically audiences pack into their screenings.
The establishment of the CIFA was celebrated on March 29th, with the opening of the poster exhibition “What Has Happened Here? / 这里发生了什么？” and a film festival that will run through April 19th.
There are screenings from film submissions of the Chinese Independent Film Invitational, featuring both young and established directors from across China, a DV Films retrospective that that brings classic films from Chinese directors to the screen, and international selections from Korea, Malaysia and Israel, among others.
Most films are subtitled in English, and there is a “film subtitling machine” reminiscent of Peking Opera performances at the Chang’an Theatre. Admission is free, seating on first come basis (you are recommended to come early).
A download a complete schedule and read more about the films here
Director: Yang Rui
Producer: Zhuang Tiantian
Length/Year: 91 min/2006
“The other side of the Mountain” is a review by Alice Wang, current translator for artforum.com.cn, contributor to theBeijinger, and film and documentary buff.
This observational film by Yang Rui and produced by Zhuang Tiantian focuses on the lives of three Bimo clergy of the Yi people, one of the ethnic minorities living in the Da Liangshan Mountains of China. In this remote landscape, festivals and religious traditions remain an integral part of Yi life, and the Bimo clergy conduct rituals that bridge the worlds between mortals and ghosts. The old ways seem safe here, shrouded in the mist, but assimilation and modernity are eroding the traditional ways.
Like a Kernel of Corn… a review of director Feng Yan’s non-fictional account of a strong-willed female farmer and a close up look at policy and subsistence farming in Hubei. A million thanks to Alice Wang for her article! Alice is a literary translator and currently editor of art forum’s Chinese site. Her contribution to sinopop is much appreciated, for English readers interested in the film, read a review here on variety.com.