Monday, April 26, 2010

Deliberating Life and Death Over Tea: Liu Jie's Judge (Touxi)

 I finally got to see Judge (Touxi, director Liu Jie) on Friday (April 23), up at Beijing's new art house cinema BC MOMA. I'd been keen to check out this film for some time, as I'd read it dealt with the harvesting of organs from executed prisoners – an extremely touchy topic in the PRC. Although fairly grueling, Judge proved to be one of the most provocative and involving mainland features I've seen for some time.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Screen Time: Chollywood Takes on the World & Edwin Maher on the Big Screen

My weekly Beijing film news roundup from

“A vibrant film industry capable of competing with the best Hollywood can produce” – that’s the image being pushed on a new English-language site ( designed to raise China’s screen profile on the world stage, according to UK newspaper the Guardian.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thoughts on Yin Lichuan's "Knitting"

I saw Yin Lichuan's Knitting (牛郎织女, Niú lán zhī nǔ) on Saturday night (April 17) up at Beijing's Ullens Center for Contemporary Art and, sad to say, I was quite disappointed. Yin's debut The Park (公园, Gōng yúan) was a sensitive, low-key melodrama that traced the importance of family ties in China, as well as the cross-generational tensions wrought by the enormous, rapid social changes that have redrawn the contours of contemporary Chinese society. Knitting is a similarly small-scale work, but lacks the emotional insight of Yin's earlier effort.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Beijing Screening Wrap Up

I had intended to post this earlier, but time got away from me.  There’s lot’s happening over the next week in Beijing, though with the Caochangdi PhotoSpring kicking off tomorrow, I think I’ll probably spend most of the weekend at the wonderful Three Shadows Photography Art Centre. You can read my post about their activities this weekend on the Beijinger website.

The Ullens Center of Contemporary Art (UCCA) up at the 798 art zone is currently hosting the The ScreenOut Film Exhibition, sponsored by the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper. The SMD has long been involved in promoting China’s more cutting edge cinema, an activity that has occasionally got them into trouble, as the Beijing-based filmmaker, writer and curator Ou Ning recalled when I interviewed him last month for my RealTime article on Chinese documentaries. I’ll be posting my interview with Ou Ning shortly, so stay tuned for the rest of that story.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Aticle from RealTime on China's Digital Documentary Generation

Recently I have become fascinated by China's burgeoning independent documentary sector. I've written several articles on the subject, including the one below in the latest edition of the Australian arts magazine RealTime.

You can see the article in its original context here. You can find more of my work for RealTime here.

Alternative Realities: China's Digital Documentary Generation

While China's political system remains deeply authoritarian, the country's overwhelming size and explosive growth have opened cavernous gaps in the government's control of culture, through which a new generation of DV-wielding documentary filmmakers has climbed.

“I’ve never heard an independent filmmaker in China ask themselves, ‘Can I do this?’,” comments Hong Kong-based producer David Bandurski. “Independent filmmaking is the freest avenue of expression that exists in China today.”

Welcome to Screening China

Welcome to my new blog about Chinese film and filmmakers. I've been living in Beijing for close to three years now and have become increasingly fascinated by China's independent filmmaking scene. Much like Beijing's vibrant rock music scene, there's an explosion of creativity taking place in China's screen culture, mostly without any kind of institutional support, and often in spite of various obstacles put in the way of filmmakers and those screening their work by the authorities. So while the official, state-sanctioned industry pumps out endless historical epics, a small but dedicated group of Chinese filmmakers are grappling with the reality of a vast nation going through incredible changes. Unfortunately these films are rarely seen inside China itself. In cities like Beijing, however, there are a growing number of small screening venues, usually in cafes or galleries, presenting independent films to a dedicated audience.

So my reasons for starting this blog are several. Firstly I wanted somewhere to collect my published writing on Chinese film. Secondly, I wanted a space to publish all the stuff that isn't suitable for magazines or newspapers – interviews, short reviews, musings, and short film-related news items. And lastly, I wanted to help publicise the small but growing screening culture in Beijing, where I live. Places like BC MOMA, CNEX cafe and the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art are providing increasing opportunities for locals to experience the true diversity of China's vibrant filmmaking culture.

I work for, where I also publish a regular film column which I'll reproduce here.

So - stay tuned! And get involved through the comments if you have anything to contribute.