Cinema dConstructed: dGenerate Films Profiled in Global Times
"Enter the Clowns" (dir. Cui Zi'en)
Michael Gold of the China Global Times spoke recently with Karin Chien on dGenerate Films‘s contribution to the promotion and distribution of Chinese independent cinema. The article, Cinema dConstructed, speaks to dGenerate’s beginnings and mission to further the reach and expand the distribution horizons of compelling, entertaining Chinese films:
According to Chien, who worked for years as a producer of independent films unrelated to China before founding dGenerate in 2008, the films she encountered spoke to her in particular as an American of Chinese ancestry who possessed little China experience. “It was also so difficult to find an unmediated view of China in the States,” she said. “You’d have a movie like Mardi Gras: Made in China [a documentary about cultural and economic globalization, following the life-cycle of Mardi Gras beads from a factory in Fuzhou to a carnival in New Orleans] that, while interesting, imparted a very Western, reductive, not-so-complex view of what China is.”
This disparity between the China presented to Western viewers and the reality on the ground compelled Chien to seek out a vision of China as represented by such intimate, probing portraits as Liu Jiayin‘s Oxhide and Cui Zi’en‘s Enter the Clowns, both films made on shoestring budgets, without distribution channels and wholly removed from the restrictive studio system – in essence, the definition of a Chinese independent film.
“For any movie, you basically have three avenues of distribution: theatrical, semi-theatrical and non-theatrical,” she explained. “Theatrical is almost always a losing proposition, and now with DVD sales slipping, no one is making money from a standard release anymore.” The other two realms are where the lion’s share of opportunity for dGenerate’s catalogue lie, in more modest, community-based venues as cinematheques and museums, bars and lounges, and, particularly, in the surprisingly vast academic market. But despite this distributional slant toward a more scholastic milieu, Chien said that her first and foremost concern is finding films that will entertain, rather than purely educate or impart a social or political message. “Our films coming from China are immediately positioned in a certain way, in a political context,” she said. “But we’re not looking for movies that can ‘tell’ you something about China – if you learn something from our movies, that’s great, but our main concern is aesthetic value.”