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11 Chinese Independent Films Screening this Fall in Chicago – Starts Monday

Oxhide II (dir. Liu Jiayin)

This will be the largest series of Chinese cinema in Chicago this year. The series is listed online at: (note that the opening night screening is not listed).

A Selection of Chinese Independent Cinema

Mondays, September 26 – November 28, 2011 Doc Films, University of Chicago Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall The University of Chicago 1212 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL

Tickets $5, free with DocFilms season pass ($30)

Few national cinemas are as vibrant as that of contemporary China. Similarly, there are few places in the world today where art and media practice share such an important role in addressing national memory and societal issues. For these and other reasons, some of the most important work being made in China today is made by independent artists, with techniques that challenge the conventions and boundaries of both documentary and fiction film.

dGenerate Films ( stands as an important cultural pipeline, distributing independent cinema from mainland China within North America and Europe. This program intends to offer a sampling of the dGenerate catalogue, which contains many of the most important films produced in China within the last decade. These films reflect Chinese independent cinema in its broad diversity, social urgency, and creative innovation.

Full schedule after the break.

September 26 • 7:00 • 58m & 70m Disorder & Dong Huang Weikai & Jia Zhangke, 2008 & 2009 • Huang Weikai’s gritty digital city symphony of Guanzhou has aptly been described as “Vertov on acid”. Drawing on hours of footage from a network of amateur videographers, Huang summons a critique of whitewashed contemporary media and all-pervasive voyeurism. Dong, a documentary by China’s greatest living filmmaker, depicts the painter Liu Xiaodong.

October 3 • 7:00 • 110m Oxhide I Liu Jiayin, 2005 • One of the most important Chinese films in the past decade and a monument of world cinema, Oxhide is a brilliant paean to the powers of formalism. Liu Jiayin cast her parents and herself as fictionalized versions of themselves. Through the thousand daily travails of city life, a genuine and deeply moving picture of Chinese familial solidarity emerges from the screen. DVD

October 10 • 7:00 • 113m Transition Period Zhou Hau, 2009 • If you think Chicago politics smells of cronyism, wait till you see its Chinese counterpart, vividly captured by journalist-turned-filmmaker Zhou Hao. A prizewinner at this year’s Hong Kong Documentary Festival, The Transition Period is a startlingly candid portrait of Guo Yongchang, a Chinese Communist Party county secretary who eventually was convicted on corruption charges. We see Guo discuss how to split tax revenue with lower-level officials, smear cake on the face of an American businessman seeking favors, and threaten local workers protesting over unpaid wages. DVD

October 17 • 7:00 • 115m Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul Hu Jie, 2004 • Lin Zhao was a young woman who attended Peking University in the 1950s. Of all the students at the university, she was the only one who refused to write a political confession during Mao’s Anti-Rightist Campaign, and as a result was sentenced to prison. Lin composed endless articles and poems from her cell. Forbidden to use pens, she wrote with a hairpin dipped in her own blood. Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul stands as a landmark in the Chinese independent documentary movement. The result is a lasting testament to a young woman’s legacy of courage and conviction.DVD

October 24 • 7:00 • 132m Oxhide II (director Liu Jiayin) Liu Jiayin, 2009 • Breaking new ground in cinematic art, Liu Jiayin’s follow-up to her masterful debut Oxhide turns a simple dinner into a profoundly intimate study of family relationships. Building on the stunning vision of Oxhide, writer-director Liu Jiayin once again casts herself and her parents in scripted versions of their life in a tiny Beijing apartment. At the same time, “Liu’s shots are carefully, rigorously, exquisitely composed” (Berenice Reynaud, Senses of Cinema), showcasing one of the most gifted visual artists working in China today. DVD

October 31 • 7:00 • 90m Timber Gang Yu Guangyi, 2006 • Yu’s documentary confronts the viewer with a China not-yet eclipsed by massive development, depicting the grueling, Herzogian conditions of rural subsistence labor. Lumberjacks in a mountainous area of China use a method that has not changed for centuries. The men stay in humble cabins, where they eat, drink wine and sleep together. This is the last year for the lumberjacks. In the spring they will start looking for other work in the city. DVD

November 7 • 7:00 • 169m Ghost Town Zhao Dayong, 2009 • A remote village in southwest China is haunted by traces of its cultural past; Zhiziluo is a town barely clinging to life. Divided into three parts, this documentary takes an intimate look at its varied cast of characters, bringing audiences face to face with people left behind by China’s new economy. A father-son duo of elderly preachers argue over the future of their village church. A twelve year-old boy scavenges the hillside to feed himself. Zhao’s novelistic yet urgent film attests to the filmmaker’s deep commitment to his subjects as well as the painful lives of those forgotten by the onslaught of development. DVD

November 14 • 7:00 • 91m Winter Vacation Li Hongqi, 2010 • Winter Vacation is a film of quiet anger. Throughout its still mastershots, a many peopled cast passes in and out of this wintery town within Inner Mongolia. Terse and deadpan, Winter Vacation evinces a style recalling such filmmakers as Jim Jarmusch, Tsai Ming-Liang and Corneliu Porumboiu. DVD

November 21 • 7:00 • 85m No. 89 Shimen Road Shu Haolun, 2010 • A poignant reflection of memory in the years leading up to Tianemen Square, No. 89 Shimen Road tells the story of one boy’s coming of age and the community that supported him on one street in Shanghai. Creating an eerie relay of stand-ins for the coming tensions within China throughout the 1980s the film finds urgency and a personal voice within the register of nostalgia. Conceived of as a richly textured fictional account of the time, the film weaves many elaborate devices including still photography and controlled film footage meant to evoke a document of the time, an elaborately recreated milieu. DVD

November 28 • 7:00 • 168m Tape Li Ning, 2010 • Shooting for five years, Li Ning documents his struggle to achieve success as an avant-garde artist despite the pressures of modern life in China. He is caught between two families: his wife, son and mother, whom he can barely support and his enthusiastic but disorganized guerilla dance troupe. One of the finest portraits of an artist in recent memory, Li’s film makes a case for the inseparability of the personal and political and an edifying testament to the struggle to create. Tape shatters documentary conventions, utilizing a variety of approaches, including guerilla documentary, experimental street video, even CGI. DVD


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