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Flaherty Seminar showcases at Bishan Harvest Festival in China this weekend

Announcement frmo the Flaherty Seminar:

The Flaherty will be presenting several films at the 2012 Bishan Harvest Festival* in Bishan Village in the Anhui Province of China,an area famous for its rural village architecture, which has all but disappeared elsewhere in China.

The festival takes place November 2 – 7 and highlights documentary films and other art forms, which focus on traditional rural culture in China. Independent documentary filmmaking in China is a relatively new industry having developed over the past 20 years, and thriving in the just the past several. Through film, Chinese documentarians are not only fighting for social justice on issues such as the environment, public safety, globalization, and politics, but they are also fighting for freedom of expression through the act of making the film itself.

2011 Bishan Harvestival

In 2010, artist/filmmaker/curatorOu Ning and writer/curator Zuo Jing made bases for themselves in two villages in Anhui Province. In 2011 they created the Bishan Project which brings together artists and intellectuals to get involved in rural reconstruction in the local area, and shortly after they launched the first Bishan Harvest Festival as a way to use art and culture to reactivate community life (Ou Ning and Zuo Jing just won the Wall Street Journal’s* Innovator of the Year Award 2012 (China) with the Bishan Project). This year the Bishan Harvest Festival will be held simultaneously with the Yixian International Photo Festival, and will showcase documentary films about rural life inside and outside of China. The Festival serves as the perfect host for the Flaherty Seminar and its namesake, Robert Flaherty, who is considered by many to be the father of ethnographic and documentary filmmaking.

Flaherty former Executive Director Mary Kerr, trustee Elizabeth Delude-Dix, and Seminar filmmakers Lisa Barbash and Laura Kissel will make the trip to China to screen Barbash’s Sweetgrass and In and Out of Africa, Kissel’s Cabin Field and Cotton Road, and Robert Flaherty’s Lousiana Story and The Land. The Harvest Festival will also showcase works featured in the Folk Memory Project, established by Wu Wenguang, a prolific videomaker, performance artist, and writer who is considered the father of China’s independent documentary movement. The Folk Memory Project features work by the newest generation of China’s documentary makers, known as the 80-hou generation (born after 1980) and is devoted to recording pivotal historical moments and movements in socialist China as recalled by village elders. Additional Flaherty screenings will also be held at Fudan University in Shanghai on Nov. 8 & 9.


Ilisa Barbash is a filmmaker, writer, teacher and museum curator. She made Sweetgrass in 2009 together with Lucien Castaing-Taylor. Sweetgrass was released theatrically in the United States, Canada, Latin America, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and aired on PBS’s POV American television series. Previous works by Barbash and Castaing-Taylor include Made in USA (1990), a film about sweatshops and child labor in the Los Angeles garment industry, and In and Out of Africa (1992), an ethnographic video about authenticity, taste, and racial politics in the transnational African art market, that won eight international awards. Barbash and Castaing-Taylor’s films are in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the British Museum; they have screened at the AFI, BAFICI, Berlin, and New York film festivals, as well as at Punto de Vista, and the Flaherty Seminar. Barbash resides in the Boston area where she is a Curator of Visual Anthropology at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum.

Cabin Field

Laura Kissel is a documentary filmmaker whose work explores social/cultural landscapes, the representation of history, and the use of orphan films. She was named the South Carolina Arts Commission’s Media Arts Fellow for 2007-2008 and has received numerous fellowships and grants including a Fulbright Award and funding from the South Carolina Humanities Council (2003 and 2008) and the Fledgling Fund (2010 and 2012). Her educational travelogue Beyond the Classroom: China (2007) was nominated for a Southeastern Emmy. Cabin Field (2005), a non-fiction essay about farm workers in rural Georgia, was honored with three festival awards including the Jurors’ Citation Award at the Black Maria Film and Video Festival. She is currently at work on Cotton Road, a documentary about the global cotton trade which brings together the stories of South Carolina cotton farmers, Chinese textile workers, and global consumers.

This event is the first step in The Flaherty’s commitment to a cultural exchange between Chinese documentarians and American filmmakers. We are indebted to Karin Chien, Zhang Xianmin, and Genevieve Carmel for their hard work and long hours in making this exchange possible. Stay tuned for reports and photos from Flaherty’s visit to China.


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