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Reel China @NYU 6th Biennial 2012 Schedule

The Reel China @NYU 6th Film Biennial continues its tradition of sampling some of the most outstanding contemporary independent documentaries produced in China. This year Reel China has also added a few independent fiction films that we feel also reflect a keen understanding of this post-reform moment. Participating filmmakers range from more experienced professional documentarians to young novices. As their disparate visions extend and overlap, we witness the persistent presence of independent cameras that, amidst the disorienting transformations of today, assures the discovery and documentation of fragments of contemporary reality that are becoming history at breakneck speed.

Curated by Angela Zito (NYU) & ZHANG Zhen (NYU), with special thanks to HAO Jian, Beijing Film Academy, and ZHANG Qi, Li Xianting Film Foundation.

Presented by The Center for Religion and Media & The Department of Cinema Studies

Sponsored by The Center for Media, Culture and History & China House, NYU

Supported by The Provost’s Global Research Initiative & Asian Cultural Council | |

Schedule after the break


1 pm Opening and welcome

1:30 Condolences ?YING Liang , 2010, 19min)

Ying witnessed a traffic accident five years ago and this short film is about the offering of condolences. In Chinese, “monument” and “sadness” have the same pronunciation: “bei.” “Condolences” the film was made to serve as a modest monument.

2 pm To Justify Bu Qinfu ?WANG Yunlong 2011, 90min?

Bu Qinfu, Wang’s mentor and colleague in Kunming Military Arts Ensemble during the Cultural Revolution, was executed because of her dissent. When the state began to rehabilitate the victims of the Cultural Revolution, Bu’s name was never cleared: the army claimed that she died of illness and the local government described her death as “in the line of duty.” Wang, who witnessed Bu being escorted to execution, has spent ten years searching for the truth. Through extensive interviews with the informed and Bu’s fellow prisoners and relatives, Wang reveals the atrocities behind Bu’s death.

3:30—4 pm Q&A with director Wang Yunlong, moderated by Angela Zito

4 pm Break

4:15—5:45 pm The Interceptor from My Hometown (Zhang Zanbo , 2011, 90min)

Toward the end of 2010, Zhang received a call from an old high school classmate he hadn’t seen in twelve years. The man was now the vice-mayor of Zhang’s hometown, and was visiting Beijing. While in the city, he and Zhang spent hours together, talking over life and politics on camera, providing an unusually frank and intimate portrayal of the vicissitudes of small-town government, as well as of a young provincial bureaucrat.

5:45—6:30 Q&A with Producer Zhu Rikun, moderated by Zhang Zhen

SAT URDAY October 20

Special Program: The Memory Project, Caochangdi Workstation Filmmakers

10 –10:30 am Opening remarks by Wu Wenguang, filmmaker and curator of The Memory Project

10:30—noon Self-Portrait: At 47 KM ?47 km (Zhang Mengqi, 2012, 77min)

After her first documentary, “Self-portrait and Three Women,” Zhang’s second self-portrait ended in a village named “47 KM,” 47 KM from Suizhou, Hubei Province, where her father was born. While Zhang’s father has left the village, her grandfather still lives there. In the summer and winter of 2010, she went back to rediscover the village and to better understand the elders who experienced the disastrous famine fifty years ago that followed the Great Leap Forward.

12- 1 Lunch

1—2:15 pm Listening to Third Grandmother’s Stories (Wen Hui, 2011, 75min)

While searching for memories her entire family has forgotten, Wen learns she has a third grandmother, the only one of her grandparent’s generation still living. Last winter Wen found her third grandmother in a village in the mountains of Yunnan. Her name is Su Meiling and she is eighty-three years old. When Wen met her it was as if her third grandmother had been waiting for her her whole life. Wen stayed as Su Meiling began to tell her about her life. Through her stories Wen learned how China’s great changes have changed one woman’s life.

2:15-2:30 Break

2:30—4 pm Children’s Village (Zou Xueping 2012, 85min)

“Children’s Village,” completes Zou’s Village Trilogy for The Memory Project. Returning to her family village in the beginning of 2012, she investigated the toll of death during the Great Famine. She also solicited donations for a memorial for those who died. Local children joined in, taking Zou’s video camera to visit and interview old folks and to get statistics and donations. While assisting her, they had their first opportunity to learn about and appreciate their village’s history. And unlike the sense of loneliness Zou felt in the village during her first two films there, with the help of these “little angels,” she finally sees the future and finds hope.

4—6:30 pm Luo Village: Pitiless Earth and Sky (Luo Bin 2012, 80min)

This sequel to Luo’s first documentary, “Luo Village: Me and Ren Dingqi,” takes its title from the memoir of Ren Dingqi, who spent ten years documenting his bone-deep experiences of Land Reform, the Great Leap Forward, the Great Famine, and the Cultural Revolution. The film attempts to provide a reading of the memoir and to delve again into the memories of this witness of history. However, as Luo tries to “expose” this memoir to fellow villagers, he encounters unexpected responses and finds himself examining the link between the past and present and wondering whether the village is still “as pitiless as the earth and sky.”

6:30-7:30 pm Discussion with Wu, and filmmakers Zhang, Luo and Zou, moderated by Angela Zito

SUNDAY October 21

10—12 pm Cold Winter ?? (Zheng Kuo , 2011, 102min)

From late 2009 to early 2010, some of the districts around Beijing’s 798 Art Zone were subject to forced demolition and eviction. In extremely cold weather, artists protested–and struggled with hesitation and internal conflict. When shooting 798 Station in 2009, Zheng bumped into the site of this demolition project named “Warm Winter Plan.” Relocation in China is nothing new, but violent eviction of artists on such a massive scale has been rare.

12-1 pm Lunch

1—3 pm Five Plus Five ??? (Xu Xing and Andrea Cavazuti , 2011, 85min)

In recent years, Chinese contemporary art has been caught in the spotlight of the international art market. Forty km from the city of Beijing, Songzhuang, once an sleepy village, has become a world-famous art community due to an influx of over 4,000 Chinese and foreign artists. Five Plus Five captures the everyday life of Old Jin, an unlicensed cab driver for artists who got into business with a cheap, second-hand car. Of course, along the way we are treated to a sly look at the everyday lives of artists too.

3:15—5:15 pm Zheteng (Wang Wo , 2010 115min?

Put together as a collage, “Zheteng” features appearances and performances aired on television and the internet in 2008 from reports and discussions, accounts and special features. These events have occurred within, and have affected, the everyday lives of people who will bring their own opinions, conceptions, and judgments to the film. Although the year 2008 has already passed, these events still seems present, making one feel that every new day is like yesterday and that the year 2008 will never end.

5:30—6:30 Q&A with director Wang Wo, moderated by Zhang Zhen

6th Reel China 2012 Second Weekend

FRIDAY October 26

1 pm Opening and welcome

1:15—3 pm My Mother’s Rhapsody (Qiu Jiongjiong , 2011? 106min)

Painter Qiu’s film is the last episode in his “Chatterbox Trilogy,” confronting his sixty year-old father and his tenacious eighty year-old mother. Time is changing and Qiu Jiongjiong’s grandma’s house has been demolished. As she looks for a place where she can keep her autonomy and vitality, she confronts her sons’ families and her own changes in habit, reconstructing the saga of her life.

3—3:15 pm Break

3:15—4:45 pm The Loves of Mr. An (Yang Lina? 2007? 88min)

Continuing the theme of her award-winning documentary “Old Men,” Yang Lina follows the ninety-year-old Mr. An on his visits to the public dancing place in the Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing, where he meets Mrs. Wei. After becoming dancing partners, the two develop a special relationship.

4:45—5:30 pm Q&A with filmmaker YANG Lina, moderated by Zhang Zhen

6:30—10:30 pm Evening Program

The Unfinished History of Life ?Cong Feng?2011, 3:46′)

Shot in the same place as Cong’s previous film, “Doctor Ma’s Country Clinic,” “The Unfinished History of Life” shows the lives of Cong’s local friends in Huangyangchuan township, Gansu Province, Northwest China. Over a four-year period, Cong filmed local high school teachers and ex-teachers who found themselves transferred to the countryside, to create an intimate portrait of provincial Chinese lives.

SATURDAY October 27

Special Program: A Day with Pema Tseden’s Independent Cinema

10 am—12 pm The Silent Holy Stones (2005, 102′ ‘)

A young Tibetan Monk goes home for the New Year, and is so completely fascinated by the family TV and VCR, and the tale of Monkey’s Journey to the West, that we fear he will no longer manage to keep his religious vocation. Tseden’s first fiction feature film as been highly awarded for its many-layered script, its beautiful photography and the gently humorous performances he coaxed from mostly non-professional actors.

12-1 pm LUNCH

1—1:30 pm The Grasslands (2004, 22′)

Pema Tseden’s student film gives us an early glimpse of his filmmaking talents. Ama Tsomo’s “liberated” yak has been stolen, and he and his equally aged wife are going to get it back. Since the yak had been released from slaughter in the Buddhist gesture of “liberating life” for animals usually used for food, the thieves have committed a double crime. How Tseden solves this dilemma presents a glimpse into much older ways of being in Tibet.

1:30-3:30 The Search (2009, 117′)

Shot in a documentary-style near Qinghai Lake in the far western Chinese province of Qinghai — where Pema Tseden was born — the movie follows a film crew looking for a singer to perform the part of Tibetan opera character Prince Drime Kunden. This deeply symbolic character epitomizes selflessness and the virtue of charity, and not surprisingly, the traveling crew has a hard time finding anyone suited to the role. Part road movie, as they roll along the endless highways of Qinghai, part “American Idol” as we see quite a few hilarious auditions, we find ourselves in a Tibet that is far from the usual stereotypes.

3:30 Break

3:45–5:30 Old Dog (2011, 88′)

5:30–6:30 Discussion with director Pema Tseden, Hao Jian (Beijing Film Academy), Robbie Barnett, (Columbia University), moderated by Angela Zito


10:30 am—12 pm The Next Life (Fan Jian, 2011, 81min)

In the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, 5,335 students were killed. Ye Hongmei’s 8-year old daughter was among those killed in quake. This film follows her and her friends’ attempts to have more children in the wake of that horror. Ye, forty years old, is starting her second IVF treatment to get pregnant. Refusing to come to terms with the reality of her daughter’s death, Ye clings to the desperate of pregnancy as though it would raise the dead. The psychological and physical ordeal of the fertility treatments wear upon her and her husband, and the film keeps us on the edge, wondering what the outcome will be.

Noon-1:30 pm LUNCH

1:30—3:00 pm I Beat a Tiger When I was Young ? Xue Jianqiang, alias Kokoka, 2010, 75min)

An enfant terrible of the independent filmmaking scene, Xue Jianqiang went after a number of prize winning documentary filmmakers to see how they would respond to negative criticism. In his attempt to “realistically document human arrogance” as he puts it, he turns the tables on the directors who are used to filming other people’s lives. Indeed, they did not like it very much.

3:00—3:40 pm No Private Houses in My Country ( He Liren, 2011 40min)

No phenomenon exists in isolation; the tragedy of forced relocation has its own distinct institutional background. Seeing homes and lives destroyed, the director asks: “Why are Chinese people so powerless to even protect our own homes?” He’s film shows how the rights to private property have changed in China during the past 60 years when political power is greater than the law. His lesson: Sooner or later, every one of us could be a homeless victim

4—5 pm Discussion with director He Liren and Hao Jian (Beijing Film Academy, moderated by Zhang Zhen


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