For over a decade, the Beijing Independent Film Festival has been one of the leading platforms for independent and underground film artists in China. During that time, it’s also been blocked, challenged, and even outright cancelled by the government. In 2015, a collective called Cinema on the Edge decided to bring selections from the festival to New York City, and in 2016, they are bringing those films out to the world. The SDAFF Spring Showcase is their San Diego stop.
“China Now: Independent Visions” celebrates the daring spirit and creative innovation of independent filmmakers and festival organizers in mainland China. These films do various things: intensely engaged meta-journalism, alternative history-making, genre-defying performance/documentary art hybridization, and visually playful experimentalism. Independent Chinese filmmakers are inventing new ways of mobilizing, adapting, and innovating film language under pressure from the incredibly rapid and fundamental changes Chinese society is undergoing.
Program notes by Shelly Kraicer, co-organizer of Cinema on the Edge
China Now / 95 minsThrough styles as diverse as ink wash painting, Tibetan thangka, and 3D computer graphics, these six short animations breathtakingly imagine fable-like pasts and dystopian, surreal futures.
China Now / China / 2015 / Documentary / 80 minsThis film documents the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival in 2014, from the preparations before the opening ceremony to the process of its forced cancellation. The footage used for the film was captured by audience members, local artists, invited directors and special guests, festival volunteers and workers, as well as journalists and members of the media.
Yang Pingdao / China Now / China / 2014 / Experimental, Family, Hybrid Documentary / 104 minsUsing an innovative structure, based on the distinctive texture of family memory through space and time, Yang Pingdao invents something poised delicately between fiction and documentary to capture crystallized moments in his family history, to recreate in cinematic form its emotional weight and variety, woven around the life and death of his grandmother, and the birth of his child.
Hu Jie / China Now / China / 2014 / Documentary / 101 minsSpark was an underground magazine published in 1960 by four young intellectuals who wanted to expose the devastating famine caused by Mao’s Great Leap Forward, a horrendous period of national suffering that is still unmentioned in China’s history textbooks today. His alternative oral history approach knits together courageous interviews with the magazine’s surviving supporters, who were ready to sacrifice themselves to alert their countrymen to unprecedented disaster.