NEWS — 04/08/2011 9:42 PM

Doc News / 1 – 30 March 2011

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Doc in China, 2 doc festivals in Korea, Filmart 2011 …

Oscar winner Ruby Yang sees boom in Chinese documentaries (30/03/2011)

China is seeing a boom in documentary making with the spread of digital cameras and the wealth of issues arising from the country’s rapid modernization, Oscar-winning filmmaker Ruby Yang said Wednesday. The Chinese-American filmmaker, who won an Academy Award in 2007 for her documentary short “The Blood of Yingzhou District,” said screenings of Chinese documentaries were still rare when she moved to Beijing from the San Francisco area in 2004.

“Now I’ve seen many young independent documentary filmmakers, their work being shown overseas, in Europe, in New York,” Yang told students after a screening of her new film “The Warriors of Qiugang” at the University of Hong Kong. She added that even large commercial studios are getting into the act, with Shanghai Media Group giving grants to young documentary makers. “It’s very alive. I think it’s a great time to do documentaries in China because China is changing so quickly. There are so many subjects that one can do,” Yang said. “The quality of the films has improved a lot and there’s quite a bit of (financial) support from even inside of China and outside of China for these filmmakers.”
Yang’s recent work has examined a range of social issues. “The Blood of Yingzhou District” focused on discrimination against rural Chinese children who lost their parents to AIDS. “Tongzhi in Love,” released in 2008, portrayed the plight of Chinese homosexuals dealing with conservative parents. “The Warriors of Qiugang,” which was nominated for the best documentary short Oscar this year but didn’t win, follows a rural Chinese village’s successful campaign to evict a polluting chemicals factory.

Yang’s latest film was screened for the villagers it depicts and for environmental activists, but like many Chinese documentaries, didn’t receive a commercial release. However, she said it has been illegally uploaded to several video-sharing websites. Despite the limited mass exposure of the film, the Oscar nomination still drew government attention, with Chinese officials sending cleaners to spruce up Qiugang Village and clear out the old factory site, as well as pledging 200 million Chinese yuan ($30 million) to cleaning up a nearby waterway, Yang said.
“They are very conscious of their image in the West,” she said.
Yang, who edited the feature films “Xiu Xiu, The Sent Down Girl” and “Autumn in New York,” both directed by actress Joan Chen, said she next plans to make short films about Chinese activists and also hopes to direct a feature film.
She was also asked about her use of computer animation and comic-style graphics in “The Warriors of Qiugang” to depict events that she could not shoot — such as the lush fields of Qiugang before it was polluted and protests staged by the villagers. “I think nowadays people are getting very sophisticated, audiences are getting sophisticated and there are many ways to represent a story — as long as you are true to the facts,” Yang said.

Canadian Press / The Associated Press

Festivals accent trends in documentary, women’s filmmaking (25/3/2011)
 The Seoul Independent Documentary Film and Video Festival will screen “Miracle on Jongno Street” and “No Name Stars”.

 The spring film festival season kicks off this year with two staples of the film festival scene, the 10th Seoul Independent Documentary Film and Video Festival (Sidof) and the 13th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul.

Sidof got started yesterday at Lotte Cinema’s Hongik University branch. The 60 documentaries in the seven-day festival are organized into three sections: Sidof Choice, Sidof Focus and Asia Focus.

Sidof Choice aims to show the latest trends in documentary filmmaking. Of the 24 films screening this year, chief curator Ahn Jung-sook recommends “Love in Korea,” which is the opening film, and “No Name Stars.”

. “Love in Korea” is the seventh film featuring Bangladeshi filmmaker Mahbub Alam. As the film starts, Alam is contacted by a Bangladeshi film crew with plans to produce a film in Korea. Excited by the news, Alam serves as their guide in Seoul but during production six crew members suddenly go back to their home country. When they don’t return, Alam decides to fly home to find out what happened to them. Alam came to Korea to work temporarily in 1999 but decided to stay and eventually became active in the migrant worker community. He founded Migrant Worker TV, has starred in six Korean films and directed three documentaries about migrant workers’ rights.
The International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul will screen “Perpetual Motion” and “Year without a Summer.” Provided by the festivals

. Kim Tae-il’s “No Name Stars” tracks the hidden heroes of the Gwangju Democratization Movement, the citizens’ uprising in the city of Gwangju, South Jeolla, in 1980. These forgotten heroes made rice balls to feed the demonstrators who were instrumental in bringing about Korea’s democratization movement but are regularly left out of Korean history books. The omission inspired Kim to tell their stories.

This film, along with “Searching for Dead Dogs” and “My Sweet Baby,” are available with English subtitles.


One of the most interesting films in the Sidof Focus section is “Miracle on Jongno Street,” which documents the struggles of four young gay people in Seoul. It was chosen as the film of the year last December by the Association of Korean Independent Film and Video. Pusan International Film Festival, Asia’s biggest film festival, which recently changed its name to Busan International Film Festival, also honored the film with its Mecenat Award last October. The award is given to the best Asian documentary.

This will be the last chance to see the film before it is released nationwide in June. It will be screened at the festival with English subtitles.

This year’s Asia Focus section features six Chinese documentaries including “Chinese Closet,” which is about members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community in China, many of whom are in the closet. Programmer Huh Eun-kwang recommends it to viewers as a counterpoint to “Miracle on Jongno Street” because the two films use very different techniques to deal with the same subject.

The multi-venue International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul opens on April 7 and runs until April 14 with 110 films from 30 countries. Tickets for this festival always sell out quickly, so it is best to buy them in advance.

Festival programmer Kwon Eun-sun offered her recommendations for the festival at a recent press conference in central Seoul. She encouraged festivalgoers to explore the New Currents and Ani-X sections.

New Currents is a collection of the latest films by female directors. Among the films in this program, Kwon recommended Malaysian director Tan Chui Mui’s “Year without a Summer.” The film depicts the past and present friendship of two childhood friends.

The Ani-X section, traditionally a very popular section, features short films – from 3-D to hand-drawn films – by female animation artists from Korea and abroad.

The Asian Spectrum section spotlights Chinese films this year. Included among them is Ning Ying’s “Perpetual Motion,” in which four Chinese women talk openly about their sexuality. Ning Ying is one of a few renowned female directors in China.

In addition to introducing Korean audiences to a wealth of new films by female directors from Korea and abroad, another of the festival’s achievements is its success in nurturing the careers of new and emerging female documentary filmmakers. The primary vehicle for this is the Documentary Ock Rang Award, which was won last year by Korean director Ji Min. This year, the festival features the world premiere of her autobiographical documentary “2 Lines.” In the film, the director sets out to answer the question of whether marriage is optional in Korea after finding herself pregnant with no plans to marry.


The Seoul Independent Documentary Film and Video Festival runs through March 30 at the Hongik University branch of Lotte Cinema. Ticket costs 5,000 won. For more information, visit or call (02) 362-3163.

The International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul opens on April 7 and runs through April 14. The main venues are the Artreon Theater in Sinchon, the Korean Film Archive, Seoul Women’s Plaza and Yangcheon Art Hall. Tickets cost 5,000 won. For more information, visit or call (02) 583-3598.

Joon Gang Daily

The coproduction conundrum (23/03/2011)

Expectations were turned on their heads a little at Tuesday’s seminar “Europe/China: More Film Coproduction for a New Step of Cooperation” at Hong Kong FilMart. The moderator Helen Davis Jalayath began the discussion began with some familiar — but still striking — statistics. The number of film’s produced in China grew from 82 in 2000 to 526 in 2010. The number of cinema screens in China has grown to 6,200 but is expected to more than double again to 16,500 by 2015. And box office, which crossed $1.5 billion in 2010 is forecast to reach $5 billion by 2015.
Jalayath described China as a “big market with a narrow door” referring to the quota limits on foreign film releases in the country where local films have a 50-60% market share. She stated that according to recent research of Screen Digest — where she works as a senior analyst — Chinese officials have not made an official response to the World Trade Organisation’s 19 March deadline to comply with a ruling to further open its domestic market.


… Chow Keung (周強) — who co-founded Xstream Pictures (西河星匯) with Jia Zhangke (賈樟柯) and Nelson Yu (余力為) — also found approximately 30% of the budget for his latest production Secret Garden in Europe. The documentary — about the history of the Italian concession in Tianjin — is budgeted at €1.6 million and is aiming for a theatrical release in China.
Chow stated that he never considers access to the China market as a goal when making a coproduction and sees far greater risks to a film’s eventual profitability in the mundanities of juggling the tax burdens of different participating countries and minimising the uncertainty of currency fluctuations. (Although the Italian government has been negotiating its own coproduction treaty with China, it hasn’t been ratified.)
Glachant noted the problem of trust that producers have when working in foreign markets. Chinese producers may only be interested in China rights because they have no understanding of the international market. Similarly, because foreign producers have no confidence in calculating true box office income in China, they too readily give up mainland rights to their films. She called for investors to travel more and not stay stuck behind a desk.

Film Biz Asia

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