THE RIVER OF LIFE
Shengming de heliu
Directed by Yang Pingdao
2014, 101 min, digital, colour
In Mandarin Chinese and Cantonees English subtitles.
Yang Pingdao is one of China’s most exciting emerging young 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 Beijing Independent Film Festival 2014; Best Feature Film Prize, China Independent Film Festival 2014.
Screens at 19:00 on 2 June 2016, with filmmaker Yang Pingdao and curator Shelly Kraicer in attendance
Animation On The Edge: independent Chinese animation
PERFECT CONJUGAL BLISS
Directed by Zhong Su
A gorgeous 3D animation unscrolling through Chinese history, from grey urban collapse to ultra-coloured consumer dystopia.
Directed by Zhang Yipin
Traditional pen-and-ink drawings, animating a fuzzy-haired ruddy-cheeked girl’s imaginative world of terror and freedom.
THE HUNTER AND THE SKELETON
Lieren yu koulouguai
Directed by Bai Bin
A spectacular animated version, flash plus thangka, of an Eastern Tibetan folk tale: when a hunter meets a fearsome skeleton monster, are they friends, or enemies?
AN APPLE TREE
Directed by Bai Bin
A Tibetan fable, in vivid colours, of an indomitable tree, assailed yet triumphant.
Directed by Ding Shiwei
Black-and-white industrial surreal: bodies float between familiar bureaucratic monuments above the earth, while sunflowers lie beneath the earth.
Directed by Zhou Xiaohu
Master clay animator Zhou fashions a bathroom of hallucinatory reflections, where Lacan meets fascism.
THE NEW BOOK OF MOUNTAINS AND SEAS PART 2
Xin shan hai jing 2
Directed by Qiu Anxiong
29’35″ (2007) 2012
Animating classic-styled ink and pen drawings, and filling them with quasi-nightmarish animal-machine forms, Qiu suggests a world under ecological collapse, where genetically tampered animal forms expire on earth and colonize the stars.
Directed by Chen Li-hua
A-mei, a Taiwanese aboriginal woman working in a factory, is called home for the Harvest Festival, but her boss refuses. In Chen’s imaginative tale, illustrated with cut out and line drawn animation, a daughter’s powerful dreaming saves all.
Eight animated shorts will be screened together in a single programme at 4pm 5 June 2016
Directed by J.P. Sniadecki & Libbie Cohn
2012, 78 min, digital.
In Sichuanese and Mandarin Chinese.
This is an experimental, structuralist documentary shot in People’s Park, Chengdu, Sichuan, in one single, bravura take lasting 75 minutes by two young American directors. Their camera captures the fullness of Chinese urban leisure life. As the camera pans side to side and glides relentlessly forward through the park, it catches hundreds of Chinese urbanites out for fun, relaxation, socializing, and a certain kind of freedom: eating, strolling, singing, practicing calligraphy, and watching each other. Watching becomes dancing, as the film slowly gathers an ecstatic, trance-like groove, building to a rapturous climax, as people, movement, music, image, and sound mix together: this is as close to pure pleasure as cinema gets.
Screens at 6:30pm on 9 June 2016
Directed by Zhu Rikun
2014, 129 min.
In Chinese and Tibetan with English subtitles.
Tsering Woeser, the subject of Chinese filmmaker Zhu Rikun’s extraordinary documentary, is a Tibetan writer now based in Beijing. Through her writing and online voice, she has become one of the most eloquent voices on Tibet. Zhu Rikun’s sharply designed, formally innovative documentary is completely in Woeser’s own voice: Zhu alternates formally photographed scenes of Woeser reading excerpts from her secret government “dossier” (which she has somehow gained access to) with scenes of her speaking in her own soft but powerful, eloquent, passionate voice. Woeser’s moving account of her political awakening and current activism makes for a powerful document of a Tibetan woman finding her voice and insisting on her freedom to use it.
Screens at 8:30pm on 9 June 2016
THE LAST MOOSE OF AOLUGUYA
Han da han
Directed by Gu Tao
2013, 99 min, digital.
In Mandarin Chinese and Ewenki dialect with English subtitles.
Award winning filmmaker Gu Tao’s weirder-than fiction documentary is a portrait of Weijia, a hunter-poet with a tumultuous life. Weijian is a member of the Ewenki minority, whose homeland is near Siberia in far northeastern China. Forbidden to continue hunting, the Ewenki have been forced to move from their forests into dreary Chinese government-designed permanent villages. Deprived of means of livelihood like many of his people, Weijia spends his time drinking and being a poet… when all of a sudden, as in a fairytale, a young teacher from Hainan, the tropical paradise island in China’s far south, comes to marry him and sweep him away. Weijia, clad in tropical print shirts, doesn’t quite fit into paradise, and his story turns dark, with intimations of madness and violence.
Screens at 6:30pm on 16 June 2016
FOUR WAYS TO DIE IN MY HOMETOWN
Wo guxiangde sizhong siwang fangshi
Directed by Chai Chunya
2012, 90 min, digital.
In Gansu dialect with English subtitles.
A four-part fiction film that’s as much poetry as it is narrative, first-time filmmaker Chai Chunya’s gorgeous work evokes four characters – a poet, a searcher, a puppet master, and a shaman – each with intense, mystical, deeply-rooted spiritual links to the land (the film was shot in and around Gansu province) mediated by the four elemental symbols: earth, water, fire, and wind. The film’s logic is associative, dreamlike; Chai builds up a series of striking tableaux, hypnotically suggestive and pictorially spectacular. Two young women lose a camel, then a father. A retired shadow puppeteer meets a gun-toting tree thief. Storytellers and shamans evoke a lost spiritual world that Chai films back to life in spectacular visual motifs whose meanings are intuited, like deeply felt communal memories.
Screens at 8:30pm on 16 June 2016
EMPEROR VISITS THE HELL
Tang huang you difu
Directed by Luo Li
2012, 67 min, digital.
In Chinese with English subtitles.
Winner of the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival’s Dragons & Tigers Prize, this is a quietly astonishing tour de force that hinges on a lovely conceit: relocating to the present day the famous story of the Tang dynasty Emperor Taizong’s visit to the underworld. Shot in elegant, black-and-white long takes, the film spins a tale of a local river god, the Dragon King, who, feuding with a fortune teller, alters the weather without authorization and is condemned to death. When the Emperor fails to commute the god’s sentence, otherworldly retribution is swift: he is summoned to Hell. Li’s audacious use of multiple levels of storytelling and filmmaking craftily and joyously subverts every authority around.
Screens at 6:30pm on 23 June 2016
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 Cut Out the Eyes at 8pm on 23 June 2016
CUT OUT THE EYES
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 Female Directors at 8pm on 23 June 2016
1131 Howe Street,
Vancouver, British Columbia, 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)