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Director Yang Jin profiled in LA Times on crossing over; dGenerate’s Karin Chien quoted

Don’t Expect Praises (dir. Yang Jin)

In the Los Angeles Times, Yang Jin, whose critically acclaimed and independently produced features The Black and White Milk Cow and Er Dong are part of the dGenerate catalog, is profiled as he makes his first foray into passing government censorship with his new film Don’t Expect Praises:

Yang Jin shot his first film, “The Black and White Milk Cow,” in his hometown in 2004 for $1,600. He asked villagers to be his actors, paying them only in cigarettes, and his main expense was $320 spent renting the titular cow. The tale of poor, rural China won him a $5,000 prize at Switzerland’s Fribourg International Film Festival, but it had no chance of being seen or making money in his homeland. Because it touched on the subjects of AIDS and Chinese Christians, Yang knew it wouldn’t get past the censors, and thus could never play in Chinese theaters, on TV, or even be sold legally on DVD. Yang’s second film was a similarly shoestring, underground affair. When it came time for his third, he wanted to do something more sophisticated — and reach a wider audience… For “Don’t Expect Praises,” a charming, Tom Sawyer-esque story of two naughty little boys who spend their days fishing and plotting to run away, Yang raised 30% of his 1 million renminbi ($160,000) budget from Heaven Pictures, one of a growing number of companies supporting art house cinema within China. He recently cleared the censorship process and is excited to see one of his movies released in a Chinese cinema for the first time. “For my first two films, I had to buy props myself. Now, I am working with 36 professionals,” said Yang, 30. “I have an art team, photography team, and costume team, so I can concentrate on directing and go on set with only a script in my hand.” The trend is not without its detractors, who fret that a new generation of filmmakers may be sacrificing its artistic integrity. But Yang and others say independent filmmaking in China can be broader than just underground cinema.

The article also interviews Karin Chien, founder and president of dGenerate Films, on the shifting definition of “independent film” in China:

As an example, [Chien] cited Lixin Fan’s “Last Train Home,” a documentary about migrant workers that screened at BC Moma and played at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010. “Last Train Home,” she said, was “a very controversial film in the independent community in China.… It was very squarely identified as an independent film in the U.S. for all the American signifiers of what an independent film is: It was filmed outside the studio system, it’s a film that played at Sundance, and it’s a signifier that it’s independent filmmaking. But Chinese filmmakers see that it’s a film that’s been government approved, it showed in theaters, so it’s controversial to call it independent.” Still, she noted that “if you want to make a bigger film in China, you normally have to cooperate with the government in some way. I don’t think in the U.S., an independent filmmaker is really confronted with losing his artistic credibility or not being true to his principles in order to make bigger films. But in China, you are caught between these two choices.”

Read the full article.


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