|Jian Yi talks to a student volunteer at IFChina Original Studio in March this year.|
In my “Newsbites” post of October 29, I noted that IFChina Original Studio, an initiative of Chinese filmmaker Jian Yi and his wife Eva, had been told it had to leave Jinggangshan University. Last Saturday (November 5) Jian Yi issued an official statement confirming the studio’s closure.
IFChina was established by Jian Yi and Eva in 2009 on the grounds of Jinggangshan University in the small provincial city of Ji’an in Jiangxi Province, southeast China. Seeking to reconnect with the reality outside China’s booming major centres, Jian Yi gave up a comfortable academic position in Beijing to return to his hometown of Ji’an with his wife Eva and set up the studio, through which they organised theatre classes, video workshops and photography programs, all based on an oral history foundation. As I detailed in my RealTime article on the studio in July, the area around Ji’an was home to China’s communist forces for several years in the early 1930s, before they were forced to abandon the area and embark on their “long march” to northwest China. So the area is rich in a grass-roots history of life under early forms of Chinese communism that has barely been recorded.
In mid-October, after 29 months of operation, Jian Yi was suddenly informed that IFChina needed to leave Jinggangshan University and cease to exist. He is unable to publicly talk about the reasons at this point. Let’s just say it’s been an eventful year internationally, and consequently a very difficult year for China’s creative community. You can read about some of the troubles others have experienced here and here.
I visited IFChina in March this year and witnessed first hand the positive impact the studio’s activities were having on the local community, especially the dedicated band of young students volunteers working with Jian Yi and Eva. It’s difficult for people outside China to comprehend just how culturally barren China’s second and third-tier cities can be, so the presence of something like IFChina in a place like Ji’an was truly special.
Jian Yi and Eva are currently assessing their options regarding the future. Jian Yi ended in his statement on the weekend with a summation of the philosophy that makes him and his wife such special people:
“We want to work on culture because we believe that it can generate positive energy among all of us in the society so eventually the negative energy will no longer consume us and, with the positive energy and courage thus gained, a better future will be possible.”
Screening China wishes Jian Yi and Eva the best of luck and every success in their future endeavours.