Born in Beijing in 1957, Ai Weiwei is perhaps the most famous contemporary Chinese artist outside of China. His groundbreaking conceptual artworks are regularly shown in the most important galleries in China and museums around the world. From art-making, Ai evolved into an architect, activist, curator, and filmmaker; a passionate and unstoppable commentator on Chinese politics and society, he was detained by the government for three months in 2011.
Chai Chunya was born in 1975 in a remote village in Gansu, China. After majoring in political science and law at Northwest Normal University, he become a journalist, then a photo editor in Guangzhou, and was a photographer for one of China’s most progressive newspapers, Southern Weekend. He has published several novels. Four Ways to Die in My Hometown is his first film.
Cong Feng is a poet and filmmaker. Born in 1972 in Chengde, Hebei province, he has worked at the National Satellite Meteorology Centre of China, and was cultural editor for The International Herald Leader. He has also published two volumes of Chinese poetry, and taught English in high school. Since 2008, four of his documentaries have been screened at BIFF, including the epic-length documentary shot at the school where he once taught, The Unfinished History of Life (2010, 240’).
Gu Tao was born in 1970 in Inner Mongolia, China, where his father was an ethnographer and photographer. Gu graduated in 1995 from Inner Mongolia Art College with a major in oil painting. After studying photography at the China Academy of Art in Beijing, he started making documentaries, many of which have one awards at international film festivals (Yamagata 2011, Singapore 2012). Last Moose is the third of his Aoluguya trilogy, which includes Aoluguya, Aoluguya (2008) and Yugou and His Mother (2011, awarded top prize at Yamagata Festival, 2011). Gu Tao pursues his ethnographic documentary vocation from a home in the artists’ village of Songzhuang, Beijing.
Hu Jie is an independent historian, artist, and filmmaker. Born in Jinan, Shandong in 1958, he graduated from the Art College of the People’s Liberation Army. He works in oils and woodcuts from his lakeside studio in Nanjing. His films are among the most important documents of China’s unacknowledged “unoffcial history”, and include Looking for Lin Zhao’s Soul (2005), about a martyr-poet critic of Mao; and Though I Am Gone (2007), about an elite Beijing girls’ high school whose students murdered their headmaster at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.
Huang Ji is from Hunan province, and grew up there in the village where Egg And Stone is set. She majored in screenwriting at the Beijing Film Academy, where she graduated in 2007. Her first screenplay Lingling’s Garden was directed by her husband (Ryoji Otsuka, the cinematographer of all her films). Her short The Warmth of Orange Peel screened at the 2010 Berlinale. She is currently working on a trilogy of fiction films about young women of different ages growing up in China today, of which Egg and Stone is the first part.
Huang Xiang, Xu Ruotao, J.P. Sniadecki
Huang Xiang is an avant garde artist and filmmaker, born in 1974 in Guangdong province. He has made two feature films, Roast Chicken (2012) and Gossip (2014). He was one of three artists arrested in Songzhuang in 2011 for “causing a disturbance” by participating in a performance art piece there.
Xu Ruotao is an visual artist and filmmaker, born in 1968 in Shenyang. He began his career at the famous pioneering independent creative community Yuanmingyuan around 1990. His first experimental feature, Rumination (2010), received a special mention at the 2010 Vancouver International Film Festival.
JP Sniadecki is a filmmaker and professor at Northwestern University in Chicago. His documentaries, which include Chaiqian (2008), Foreign Parts (with Verena Paravel, 2010), People’s Park (with Libbie Cohn, 2012), and The Iron Ministry (2014), have won many international awards. His work was featured in a special section of BIFF in 2012.
Born in 1951, Jia Zhitan is a farmer and a filmmaker in Baiyun Village, Hubei province. Since 2005, he has been participating Wu Wenguang’s Caochangdi Workshop’s Villager Documentary Project. Jia is very productive, and not only in farming: he has to date made one short and five feature length documentaries, including Investigate Jia Zhixiu, which won the documentary award at BIFF in 2013.
Born in Wuhan, China, Luo Li moved to Canada and obtained his BA and MA degrees in filmmaking at York University, Toronto. His two shorts and four features include I Went to the Zoo the Other Day (2009), Rivers and My Father (2010, Second Prize at the 2010 China Independent Film Festival), Emperor Visits the Hell (2012, Dragons and Tigers Prize, 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival) and Li Wen At East Lake (2014). Li has already been the subject of an (early) career retrospective, at the TIFF Cinematheque (Toronto) in July 2015.
Libbie J. Cohn and J.P. Sniadecki
Libbie Cohn is interested in public space, collective organizing and social and environmental justice. She has lived and traveled in China since her infancy and is currently studying landscape design and city planning at MIT.
J.P. Sniadecki is a filmmaker, anthropologist, and professor of documentary media at Northwestern University in Chicago. He was born on a goat farm in Michigan. His films, which include Chaiqian (2008), Foreign Parts (with Verena Paravel, 2010), People’s Park (with Libbie Cohn, 2012), Yumen (with Huang Xiang and Xu Ruotao, 2013) and The Iron Ministry (2014), have won awards at festivals around the world. He was featured in a special section of BIFF in 2012.
Born in Linqu, Shandong in 1989, Wang Xiaozhen graduated with an MA in film directing from Northeast Normal University in Changchun, China. He describes himself as a calligrapher, writer, painter, and independent filmmaker.
Xu Tong was born in 1965 in Beijing, and majored in news photography at the Communications University of China. Based on the outskirts of Beijing, he has made a series of important and prize-winning (and controversial) documentaries focusing on people on the margins of Chinese society: sex workers (Wheat Harvest, 2008 and Shattered, 2011), soothsayers (Fortune Teller, 2009), petty thieves (Fourth Brother, 2011), and wandering performers (Cut Out the Eyes, 2014).
Yang Mingming, born in 1987, graduated from the directing department of the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts. She is an independent filmmaker based in Beijing. And a natural one: “By the age of 16 I already had a DV camera, and I immediately understood that this toy was much more interesting than any handsome men.”
Wen Hui is a choreographer and dancer. She studied choreography at the Beijing Dance Academy, where she graduated in 1989. In 1994 she founded the Living Dance Studio in Beijing with Wu Wenguang, where she created many performance pieces that toured worldwide.
Yang Pingdao is a writer and director based in Guangdong province. He was born in Yangchun, Guangdong, in 1980, and graduated in film directing from the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts. His documentaries have attended festivals in Beijing, Kunming, Xian, Leipzig, and London. On his incorporation of living and dead family members into his work, he says “I sensed when my grandmother was going to die… I felt powerless at that critical time, but I hope to do something this time. After a long time of deliberation, I thought the only thing I was able to do was to make a film about our family.”
Born in Guangdong province in 1976, Zhu Rikun studied finance in the Beijing University Guanghua School of Management from 1996 to 2000. In 2001 he founded Fanhall Films, a critical node for independent film production distribution, exhibition, and curation. As well as producing and distributing many landmarks of contemporary Chinese independent cinema, Zhu founded the DOChina Film Festival, which was incorporated into the Beijing Independent Film Festival in 2006. From 2006 to 2011, he was artistic director of BIFF. His two films, The Questioning (2013) and The Dossier (2014) have been shown at several festivals around the world.
Zou Xueping was born in 1985 in Binzhou, Shandong province, where she returned to shoot thre documentaries, including this one. She graduated in 2009 from the China Fine Arts Academy and was a resident artist at Wu Wenguang’s Caochangdi Workstation. In addition to three documentaries, Zou has written a theatre piece Family Opposition (2011), and performed with the Living Dance Studio.
Bi Gan is a Chinese citizen of Miao ethnicity. He was born in 1989. His first feature Tiger (2011) was invited to the China Independent Film Festival competition in 2011. His second feature Kaili Blues premiered at the 2015 Locarno Film Festival and has won awards around the world.
Zhi Jun is an associate professor in the Photography Department of the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts, from where he graduated with a master’s degree in 2005. His art works (silver halide photography, conceptual images, etc.) have been exhibited in China and South Korea.
Chen Zhou is a video artist. Born in Zhejiang province in 1987, he graduated from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2009. Chen has held solo exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai, and has participated in numerous group exhibitions in mainland China, Taipei, Hong Kong, Houston, and Prato, Italy.
Can a government wipe out the existence of those young women [depicted in Egg and Stone] who have been sexually harassed? Precisely because the government continually seeks to obliterate these sorts of things, we therefore must not sing happy songs and put on a good show. We have to use film to record the existence of that which is obliterated and ignored.
-Huang Ji (Egg and Stone)