Recent d-generation films are considered “underground” not only due to subject matter. More often than not their production methodology helps define their independence. This is part of a series looking behind the scenes of Digital Underground in the People’s Republic.
I’ve long been a fan of Ying Liang’s films (Taking Father Home, The Other Half). They travel the festival circuit to great acclaim and show a side of China missing from official and Western media. But it was interesting and inspiring to learn that Ying Liang’s production methods are in contrast to the worldliness of his films’ reception.
I met Ying Liang at the China Independent Film Festival in Nanjing last Fall. It was also his first time attending. Ying Liang lives in the Sichuan province, far from China’s center of film – Beijing – and far from the avant-garde and documentary communities of Guangzhou. Isolated from the “industry,” Ying Liang makes his films with a combination of readily available digital technology, film festival prize money, family members – in front and behind the screen – and the collaboration of his producer / girlfriend Peng Shan. His films cost the equivalent of a month’s rent in Manhattan. In essence, Ying Liang has built his own production center.
But it is illegal to distribute his films in his home country. So Ying Liang pirates his own movies. Think about it. When the marketplace is no longer part of the equation, filmmaking and distribution are freed to become what you make it, including the means to building a more politically aware populace.