Chinese Visual Festival London 2012 will screen 17 doc films from and about China

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The annual Chinese Visual Festival, which will take place this June and July throughout various venues across London, will showcase some of the most exciting independent documentary films made in China today. 

Only in its second year, the Chinese Visual Festival offers audiences a rare glimpse of everyday life in China, providing an alternative voice to the regulated national film industry and state-controlled news organisations.

2012 is not just the year of the London Olympics: it’s also the Year of the Dragon and the 2nd Chinese Visual Festival, which runs from 22nd June to 6th July across four central London venues with the theme ‘Run, China, Run’, tying in with the Olympics Games. Hosting the 2008 Beijing Olympics has affected Chinese society profoundly, far more than envisaged. This year’s festival looks at the ‘aftershock’ of the 2008 Beijing Olympics through a variety of Chinese films, art and music.

The festival of film, art and music will hold its Opening Gala on June 22nd, the eve of the Dragon Boat Festival, and will feature the UK premiere of Dragon Boat, the latest film by acclaimed director Cao Dan as well as an audience Q&A session with the director.

The two weeks festival will feature 17 independent documentary films from China, director Q&A sessions, an art exhibition and artist performances.

Nearly twenty independent documentaries will be on offer during the festival’s run, most of them never before screened in the UK. The theme of urban development and regeneration features heavily in nearly all the films, such as festival opener Dragon Boat (2010) which explores the tradition of dragon-boat racing, and its survival in the rapidly changing landscape of modern China.

The 17 films selected for this year’s Chinese Visual Festival represent 4 intriguing themes:

  • When Home is No Longer Home… 家园已逝

Rapid development and modernisation in China has resulted in forced resttlement and the destruction of homes in traditional and rural areas, especially during the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Chinese Visual Festival explores this highly controversial issue through a trio of films which focus on the human cost often borne by everyday people.

. Dragon Boat 龙船

Cao Dan/2010/83min

Will the dragon boat remain the link between the villagers and their former homeland? Lianxi village’s fate profoundly reflects the many ongoing encounters between native cultures and modernization in China today.

The annual dragon boat race was a major event for the villagers of Lianxi, on an island in southern China. With the construction of University Town in 2003, the villagers were forced to resettle. Today, the island has been turned into a mini city, and the former site of Lianxi Village has been transformed into a folk culture resort. Resettled villagers return to the site every year to continue their tradition of dragon boat racing. Will the dragon boat remain the link between the villagers and their former homeland? Lianxi village’s fate profoundly reflects the many ongoing encounters between native cultures and modernization in China today.

Trailer

. University City Savages 大学城野人

Wang Bang/2009/88min

The provincial government expropriated their land, brutally evicted them and demolished their homes. There are only two small shanty towns there now, inhabited by ‘illegal’ squatters who refuse to accept the government’s meager compensation. Instead, they demand an apology and proper process of law. Some people call the squatters ‘The Savages’.

In 2001, the Party Secretary of Guangdong Province in South China launched a project to build a major University City in Guangzhou. Construction began in 2003, the project covering a total area of 17 square kilometres and built in an area where farmers and fishermen traditionally lived. The provincial government expropriated their land, brutally evicted them and demolished their homes. There are only two small shanty towns there now, inhabited by ‘illegal’ squatters who refuse to accept the government’s meagre compensation. Instead, they demand an apology and proper process of law. Some people call these squatters ‘The Savages’.

. Meishi Street 煤市街

Ou Ning/ 2006/85min

Meishi Street shows ordinary citizens taking a stand against the planned destruction of their homes for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Meishi Street shows ordinary citizens taking a stand against the planned destruction of their homes for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, after the Beijing Municipal Government ordered the demolition of entire neighbourhoods to widen traffic routes. Several evictees of Meishi Street, located next to Tiananmen Square, fought through endless red tape and the indifference of fellow citizens for the right to keep their homes. Given video cameras by the filmmakers, they shot exclusive footage of the eviction process, adding vivid intimacy to their story. Acclaimed at over two dozen museums and galleries around the world, Meishi Street, by renowned visual artist Ou Ning, works as both art and activism, calling worldwide attention to lives being demolished in the name of progress.

Trailer

  • Here and There 城里城外

Migration, marriage, money and modernity: four films examining the fast changing Chinese rural and urban landscapes through a collection of deeply personal stories and experiences that offer a rare and vivid glimpse of life in China from several diverse perspectives

. Shanghai Quest 寻梦上海

Kim Taylor/2007/78min

The American Dream turned on its head, Shanghai Quest follows the aspirations of three individuals: Tom, an English e-entrepreneur, Benji, a Mormon from Utah who sings Canto pop and Casey, a nightclub and rave-party organiser from LA, as they attempt to bump and grind their way to the top in Shanghai.

The American Dream turned on its head, Shanghai Quest follows the aspirations of three individuals: Tom, an English e-entrepreneur, Benji, a Mormon from Utah who sings Canto pop and Casey, a nightclub and rave-party organiser from LA, as they attempt to bump and grind their way to the top in Shanghai. The Paris of the Orient in the 20s and 30s is now the New York of the Far East, and has inspired these three Westerners to abandon their respective lands of opportunity to try and ‘make it’ in China. The film provides us with an open view of contemporary urban China and the astonishing rate at which the city has undergone a ‘lifestyle revolution’ since the economic reforms of 1992. Shanghai Quest takes a look at the transformed modern Chinese economy from the inside, through the unique love-hate relationship of three outsiders with this scintillating city. If they can make it here, they’ll make it anywhere…

Trailer

. Bachelor Mountain光棍

Yu Guangyi/2011/100 min

In the forest of Heilongjiang Province, in the far north of China, timber supplies have dwindled after a century of logging and most of the local men have lost their livelihoods. Meanwhile, the allure of better jobs in nearby cities has led to an outflow of local women, resulting in a “bachelor mountain” populated by legions of lonely, impoverished, single men.

Living in a world of extreme loneliness, San Liangzi, a forty-six year old unemployed logger who lost his job and wife twelve years ago, has grown used to talking to himself. He has been secretly in love with Meizi ,the only single woman in the village for over ten years, and doing unpaid chores for her has brought him the most pleasure in his life. He enjoys the illusion of love,which gives him warmth in such a tough environment and enables his soul to escape the harshness of reality. But his girl will never accept his love because she doesn’t like men….

. Where Should I Go?换城

Li Junhu/2010/60min

Realizing the importance of knowledge in determining her children’s fate, Zhang Zhi Li decides to leave her two adolescent daughters at home in the countryside, and with her husband takes her son to the city in pursuit of an education. Yang Xiu Qing has brought her only son and daughter from the countryside to the city. In order to make it possible for them to stay there, she has used her late husband’s pension to buy city resident permits, known as “hukous”.

For the fate of the next generation, these two ordinary families from the countryside have left their hometowns for the city, where they begin a wandering life in pursuit of their dreams. However, things do not turn out as planned. Exorbitant school fees kept Zhang Zhi Li’s son locked outside of the city’s school gates, leaving her with no option other than to teach him how to read while she works at the flea market every day. Back at their countryside homestead, away from their parents’ watchful eyes, her two daughters find it difficult to take care of themselves. The oldest daughter has already considered giving up her studies, often skipping school and cutting classes.

. Once Upon a Time Proletarian 曾经的无产者

Guo Xiaolu/2010/ 75 min

A subjective anatomy of contemporary China in the post Marxist era. With a dark, poetic and existentialist visual mind, the film shows people from different classes living in modern Chinese society.

12 chapters explore facets of Chinese social and political landscape. Stories of yearning, loss and dreams unfold: an old peasant who has lost his land, a millionaire chatting with his mate in a stock exchange office, a young migrant who came to the city to wash cars, a weapon factory worker who wishes Mao was still alive to save the country, a successful hotel owner who praises the government’s liberal economy policies, and young kids whose dream is to become famous western artists…

Lead by metaphoric comical and absurd children stories, each chapter conveys themes of trivial reality, despaired heart, lonesome youth, and uncertain future. This film contemplates a vast and complex society whose citizens are searching for new beliefs and identities after the country’s great revolutionary days, and demonstrates how the individual is conflicting with his time and history.

  • Zhou Hao – The Constant Documentarian 周浩—不懈的纪录者

The Chinese Visual Festival presents its first Directorial Retrospective, focusing on the works of Zhou Hao, one of China’s most acclaimed and challenging documentary film makers

. Senior Year 高三

Zhou Hao/2005/93min

We glimpse this hectic world through the eyes of a select group of senior students who try to assert their personalities and live out a few teenaged whims like shopping and dating in a strictly controlled environment that doesn’t bolster personal space and freedom.

Study Hard! Move Ahead! Be Patriotic! These slogans are drilled into the minds of Chinese boarding school students as they prepare for their college entrance exams. Since most of these teens come from impoverished rural areas, their tuition is paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of their peasant parents, most of whom never made it past junior high, so the pressure to succeed is stifling. To keep up their marks the students must study from dawn until dusk, waking up before the sun to memorize everything from math formulas to propagandist passages. Their desks are piled high with books from every subject and teachers roam between rows to keep these exhausted and diligent kids on task.
We glimpse this hectic world through the eyes of a select group of senior students who try to assert their personalities and live out a few teenaged whims like shopping and dating in a strictly controlled environment that doesn’t bolster personal space and freedom. As the battle for success rages on, this intense film provides a harrowing portrait of the new direction of Chinese education, one that aims to mass produce focused, result-oriented over-achievers.

. Using 龙哥

Zhou Hao/2007/104min
An unprecedented film about a drug dealer in Guangzhou (Canton). Ah Long began as a user then started to sell heroin to support himself. Besides the dark tale of a dealer who was forever on the run, this film features Long’s life as an ordinary Chinese person, seeking love and friendship. His girlfriend stayed loyal even when he was locked up behind bars and would not be released for 20 years.

Trailer

  • August, Beijing 八月北京

A series of 8 short films in which 8 directors show different lives in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games, covering a wide variety of topics and presenting a fascinating picture of modern China

. Flames in the Residents’ Committee 居委会的圣火

The Residents’ Committee was both excited and anxious after being given the honourable task of maintaining order while the Olympic Flame was being carried through its area, and called upon the locals to join them in this passionate and imaginative “War to Defend the Olympic Flame”.

. Volunteer 志愿者

20 year old Zhao Dan is a second year student atPekingUniversityand a volunteer for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Her hometown Mianzhu was devastated by theSichuanearthquake, and so the Olympics are always connected with disaster in her mind…

. Are you a Sportsman? 你是浑动员吗

Zhiyuan is a boy who is crazy about sports, and so he and his family travelled from their home inZhejiangtoBeijingto watch the Olympic Games. In order to meet his favourite sportsmen, he camped out in Beijing Airport 8 days before the opening ceremony.

. Taxi

The filmmaker took a random taxi in August inBeijing and asked the driver several questions. A long shot shows the Olympics from the taxi-driver’s perspective, and through this we learn about how the games affected Beijing residents.

. Tianqiao Memories天桥记忆

Beijing Tianqiao performer folk culture is disappearing as a result of fast modernisation. To preserve the tradition, some inheritors of the old performances decided to put on a show including all the most famous stunts.

. Artists’ Dream in August八月艺术家的梦想

This film interviews 10 painters who focused on various subjects inBeijing. The painters had a piece of land in the city’s famous art studio area and had hoped to begin construction of their own studio during the Olympics.

. Still Life平静的生活

On 8th August, 2008, the Beijing Olympics started with the grandest Opening Ceremony. Under the Bell Tower, Grandpa Han taught Taichi as he did every day, his life not much different from the time before the Olympics. On the day of the Opening Ceremony, tourists from both within China and overseas all crowded in under the Bell Tower.

. Beijing’s Vigilance北京的警惕

With a population of more than 17 million inBeijing, security during the Olympics was of prime importance. There were over 80,000 volunteers assisting in maintaining security and order during the games, scattered over the vast city.

The festival will run from 22nd June – 6th July across four venues in London.

Documentary festival line up

Festival website

SOURCE:  Chinese Visual Festival

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