Nü daoyan

Directed by Yang Mingming
2012, 43 min, digital.
In Chinese with English subtitles.

Two brilliant young women, art school graduates with deliciously profane vocabularies and supreme confidence, talk sex, cinema, and power, as they wield their shared video camera like a scalpel. Yang Mingming’s superb debut is hilarious, moving, and subversive: is it documentary or fiction, or something new that violates both modes with gleeful abandon?

Screens with Egg and Stone at 19:00 on 11 March 2016 

Venue: Visual Arts Building 114 – 1395 René Lévesque Ouest

Jidan he shitou

Directed by Huang Ji
2012, 98 min, digital.
In Hunan dialect with English subtitles.

Winner of the 2012 International Film Festival Rotterdam’s Tiger Award, Huang Ji’s brave personal film is one of the most auspicious debuts in recent Chinese cinema. Set in her home village in rural Hunan province, Egg and Stone is a powerful autobiographical portrait of a 14-year-old girl’s attempts to come to terms with her emerging sexual maturity. Since her parents moved to the city to work, she has been forced to live with her uncle and aunt for seven years. Alone with her own inchoate fears and desires, she grapples with a terrifying world of sexual awakening and danger. Huang Ji’s visual sophistication, narrative fluency, and technical polish belie her youth. Cinematographer Ryuji Otsuka (also the film’s producer and editor) contributes beautifully crafted cinematic images, fearfully intimate, softly pulsing with light, saturated with complex emotional power.

Screens with Female Directors at 19:00 on 11 March 2016. Discussion with festival curator Shelly Kraicer after the screening

Venue: Visual Arts Building 114 – 1395 René Lévesque Ouest

Mei you dianying de dianyingjie

2015, 80 min, digital.
In Chinese with English subtitles.

This 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 event which spurred the Cinema on the Edge series. 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.  It is a film produced by the collective.

Screens at 19:00 on 12 March 2016  Discussion with festival curator Shelly Kraicer after the screening

Venue: Visual Arts Building 114 – 1395 René Lévesque Ouest

Diceng 1: laike

Directed by Cong Feng
2013, 127 min, digital.
In Chinese with English subtitles.

Poet and filmmaker Cong Feng started to film a documentary about whole-scale urban demolition in the Beijing suburb of Tongzhou, but discovered that the extraordinary rapidity of change and the furious power of China’s history of destruction required something more experimental, more essay-like. From hallucinatory (are they perhaps utopian? despairing?) images of a bulldozer seeming to conjure up a building from its rubble, we follow two characters wandering through debris, telling stories of childhood trauma (featuring canine, not human loyalty during a horrific episode from the Cultural Revolution). Cong, like a visual paleo-geologist, unearths surreal, chilling images of otherworldly beauty emanating from the buried strata of this collapsing world, whose history threatens to be suffocated by layers of experience, of loss, of unremembered suffering.

Screens at 17:00 on 15 March 2016. Discussion with Joshua Neves following the screening

Venue: GEM Lab, Faubourg building 630.15 – 1250 Guy Street, Montreal


Wa yanjing

Directed by Xu Tong
2014, 80 min, digital.
In Chinese with English subtitles.

Er Housheng is a blind musician who travels Inner Mongolia with his lover/partner Liu Lanlan performing the saucy, sensationally bawdy form of musical duet comedy called er ren tai. Er’s female audiences are particularly enthralled with his combination of sensuality, Rabelaisian earthiness, and frankly socially subversive lyrics. Director Xu’s specialty is to train his piercingly observant documentary camera — intimate and complicit, rather than coldly objective —  on unique Chinese characters like Er, using them to probe deep beneath the surface of China’s clash of rural traditions with its urbanizing contemporaneity. The result is, on one hand, an enthralling ethnographic showpiece; but it’s at its core a passionate and frenzied psycho-drama of lust, violence, and genius.

Screens with Spark at 18:00 on 19 March 2016

Venue: J.A. DeSève Cinema, Library Building – 1400 De Maisonneuve Ouest, Montreal



Directed by Hu Jie
2014, 101 min, digital.
In Chinese with English subtitles.

Probably China’s most important unofficial historian-filmmaker, Hu Jie documents with his camera episodes that Chinese official history, for now, ignores. Spark 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. This is filmmaking as urgent historical investigation: with a shoestring budget Hu combines years of research, and a knack for getting people to talk without fear about the most taboo subjects in China’s recent past. His alternative oral history approach knits together courageous and frequently moving interviews with the magazine’s surviving editor, supporters, and readers, who were ready to sacrifice themselves to alert their countrymen to unprecedented disaster.

Screens with Cut Out The Eyes at 18:00 on 19 March 2016

J.A. DeSève Cinema, Library Building – 1400 De Maisonneuve Ouest, Montreal



Shengming de heliu

Directed by Yang Pingdao
2014, 101 min, digital.
In Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese with English subtitles.

Yang Pingdao is one of China’s most exciting emerging filmmakers. His astonishingly creative camera eye brings unexpected beauty to his new feature length film. Using an innovative structure, based on the distinctive texture of family memory through space and time, Yang 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. In order to combine extended family chronicle, implicit national history, and intimate soul-bearing autobiography, Yang employs gentle formal experimentation to invent new cinematic pathways.  Opening film and prize winner of BIFF 2014.

Screens at 19:00 on 12 March 2016

Venue: SSMU Building, Lev Bukhman Room – 3480 McTavish Street, Mcgill University

Chibao de cunzi

Directed by Zou Xueping
2011, 88 min.
In Shandong dialect with English subtitles.

Zou Xueping took her first documentary The Hungry Village (part of Caochangdi Workstation’s Folk Memory Project) — made up of first-person testimony about the effects of the Great Famine of 1960 (see Hu Jie’s Spark in this series for another view) on her home village in Shandong —  back home to show her subjects. They unanimously disapproved. Frustrated and full of doubt, Zou then made this second documentary discussing the villagers’ reactions to her first. This wonderful, searching, self-reflexive film questions the necessity and usefulness of truth-telling via cinema, when it brings pain and even shame upon neighbours and family. Zou’s 9-year-old niece emerges as its star, a girl who can balance competing exigencies of truth and love with a wisdom beyond her years.

Screens at 19:00 on 16 March 2016

Venue: Cultural Studies Screening Room (Rm 101) – 3475 Rue Peel, Montreal       

Tianyuan jiangwu

Directed by Wang Xiaozhen
2013, 96 min, digital.
In Shandong dialect with English subtitles.

This curiously beautiful Daoist comedy, the opening film of BIFF2013, is a first film full of promise. Wang, painting with scrupulously composed, eloquent black-and-white images, tells of a young urbanite who brings his girlfriend to meet his farmer parents in the countryside of Shandong province. Although nothing precisely happens, the farm and surrounding woods are a stage for almost non-stop cursing, kissing, pissing, and fucking. It’s both earthy and somehow unworldly at the same time, featuring perfectly ribald kids, a voyeuristic brother with a urination fetish, and a deadpan comic couple. Wang has a terrific eye, and an utterly unique, low-key comic voice.

Screens at 18:30 on 23 March 2016

Venue: Cultural Studies Screening Room (Rm 101) – 3475 Rue Peel, Montreal

Concordia University: Visual Arts Building 114
1395 René Lévesque Ouest, Montreal, Quebec
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Concordia University: GEM Lab 
Faubourg building 630.15 – 1250 Guy Street
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Concordia University: J.A. DeSève Cinema
Library Building – 1400 De Maisonneuve Ouest
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

McGill University: SSMU Building, Lev Bukhman Room
3480 McTavish Street
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

McGill University: Cultural Studies Screening Room (Rm 101)
3475 Rue Peel
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The beauty of independent cinema lies in its independence. The opposite of this independence is a media controlled by a propaganda mechanism under centralized command. Independence, exploration, and discovery grant you freedom.

Hu Jie (Spark)