Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fractured Memories, Contested Histories: Jia Zhangke's "I Wish I Knew"

Zhao Tao in Jia Zhangke's documentary I Wish I Knew.
 Some time ago I mentioned Jia Zhangke's new documentary I Wish I Knew, which had a season at Beijing's BC MOMA back in July-August. Shortly after I was commissioned by RealTime arts magazine in Australia to write about the film, so I held off doing a post about it. The RealTime article recently appeared in the Oct-Nov issue (#99). You can read it below, or see it in its original context here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What is China? Looking Behind Things with Director Zhao Dayong

If you read my post on The High Life back in June, you'll know I'm a fan of director Zhao Dayong (pictured left, image by David Bandurski), one of the most innovative and intriguing filmmakers to have surfaced in China in recent years. Zhao's career began with the feature-length documentary Street Life in 2006, but he first attracted international attention with his following up film, the epic documentary Ghost Town, which I wrote about for RealTime. More recently Zhao unveiled his first dramatic feature, The High Life, at the Hong Kong International Film Festival in March, where the film won the Silver Digital Award and the FIRPRESCI Prize.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Zhang Tianhui – A Documentary Talent to Watch

Gong Fenghai on Tiananmen Square in Zhang Tianhui's Farewell, Beijing.
 It's not often you stumble upon an exciting new talent completely unexpectedly, but during the National Day “Golden Week” holiday here in Beijing I attended a few screenings at Ou Ning's “Get It Louder” festival and came across two of the most poignant and affecting locally-produced documentaries I've seen for some time: The 7th Medical Ward and Farewell, Beijing, both by the young Beijing-based director Zhang Tianhui.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Superstition and Cruelty: Xu Tong's Fortune Teller

Li Baicheng and his wife Pearl in Xu Tong's Fortune Teller.
Anyone living in major cities like Beijing or Shanghai is aware of the gaping chasm that exists between urban and rural life in China, but that doesn't make being confronted with the inequalities any less shocking. Xu Tong's new documentary Fortune Teller, screened recently at Beijing's Ullen's Center for Contemporary Art, delves into China's lower depths by spending a year with a crippled itinerant fortune teller and his deaf, mute, mentally impaired wife as they move around Hebei Province in China's north. The film is every bit as grueling as this description implies.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Endless Tragedy, Endless Tears: Alex Law's Echoes of the Rainbow

Sandra Ng and Simon Yam as the long suffering parents in Alex Law's Echoes of the Rainbow.
 Although I was in Hong Kong earlier this year when Alex Law's Echoes of the Rainbow debuted at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, I was too busy catching films I thought would be tricky to see on the mainland to make an effort to see it. The film garnered good reviews, however, and even helped inspire talk of a Hong Kong film industry revival. A few weeks ago I finally laid my hands on a DVD copy and gave it a spin.