Building a Bookshelf for Chinese Indie Cinema: Must-have Titles
What follows is by no means a definitive or comprehensive reading list for Chinese cinema, but rather a starting point upon which hopefully others (such as you, dear reader) are welcome to build. The idea for this post was inspired by a couple of lists that I’ve come across recently, which I’d like to share – and again, I hope this prompts others to chime in as well with their recommended titles.
First is a list of titles from film critic Richard Brody, which he posted on the New Yorker blog on the occasion of Evan Ossnos’ feature magazine article on Jia Zhangke, as well as the publication of “Jia Xiang,” a new collection of interviews and essays by Jia. Reading the second paragraph, you may see why we at dGenerate took special interest in this list:
For English readers, there are several terrific pieces of work to pursue. Michael Berry, at the University of California Santa Barbara, has recently published “Jia Zhangke’s âˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨Ã€ÃºHometown Trilogy’: Xiao Wu, Platform, Unknown Pleasures,” a concise and detailed paperback on Jia’s early work, which Berry was kind enough to share with me in galleys. A polymath who has also translated Yu Hua’s novel “To Live” (which became a Zhang Yimou-directed film), Berry has also worked as an interpreter during U.S. visits by virtually all of greater China’s leading filmmakers, and published a very valuable collection of interviews with directors entitled “Speaking In Images.” Jason McGrath’s essay “The Independent Cinema of Jia Zhangke” appears in “The Urban Generation: Chinese Cinema and Society at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century,” edited by Zhang Zhen. Ni Zhen, a longtime Chinese film professor, has published the entertaining “Memoirs from the Beijing Film Academy: The Genesis of China’s Fifth Generation,” which has been translated into English by Chris Berry. (Let’s hope someone soon takes on the project of translating Jia’s work for a similar audience.) Philip P. Pan’s acclaimed “Out of Mao’s Shadow” recounts filmmaker Hu Jie’s travails in making some of China’s most controversial underground documentaries. Yingjin Zhang’s “Chinese National Cinema” provides a concise overview on the first century of Chinese film. Finally, I highly recommend the writing of Dudley Andrew, who teaches at Yale, and who was kind enough to share his work on Jia’s connection to André Bazin; Shelly Kraicer, who is monitoring the contemporary scene and blogging for the website of dGenerate Films; and the critic Kevin Lee, who wrote an insightful piece on Jia Zhangke that remains as valuable today as it was when it appeared in 2003.
We also received a list from Norman Spencer, who has been a stalwart supporter of Chinese independent cinema, including two filmmakers represented in our catalog, Jian Yi and Ying Liang. Here are titles he personally recommended for a dGenerate Films office library:
* Michael Berry, XIAO WU – PLATFORM – UNKNOWN PLEASURES: JIA ZHENG KE’S “HOMETOWN TRILOGY”, * Shaoyi Sun & Li Xun, LIGHTS! CAMERA! KAI SHI! : IN DEPTH INTERVIEWS WITH CHINA”S NEW GENERATION OF MOVIE DIRECTORS * Paul Pickowicz & Yingjin Zhang, FROM UNDERGROUND TO INDEPENDENT: ALTERNATIVE FILM CULTURE IN CONTEMPORARY CHINA. *Jason McGrath, POSTSOCIALIST MODERNITY: CHINESE CINEMA, LITERATURE AND CRITICISM IN THE MARKET AGE * Zhang Zhen, THE URBAN GENERATION: CHINESE CINEMA AND SOCIETY AT THE TURN OF THE 21st CENTURY *Michael Berry, SPEAKING IN IMAGES: INTERVIEWS WITH CONTEMPORARY CHINESE FILM DIRECTORS
There are certainly many other titles out there – you are welcome to mention any outstanding recommendations (as well as any upcoming releases we should expect) by leaving a comment.