China Perspectives 2010/1


Independent Chinese Cinema

Filming in the “Space of the People”

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China Perspectives 2010/1

Special Feature

Editorial Page 1

Judith PerninSebastian Veg

Opening Public Spaces Page 4

Sebastian Veg

Realisms within Conundrum: The Personal and Authentic Appeal in Jia Zhangke’s Accented Films Page 11

Esther M. K. Cheung

With persistent efforts on constructing personal and collective memories arising from the unprecedented transformations in post-socialist China, Jia Zhangke has produced an ensemble of realist films with an impressive personal and authentic appeal. This paper examines how his films are characterised by a variety of accents, images of authenticity, a quotidian ambience, and a new sense of materiality within the local-global nexus. Within a tripartite model of truth, identity, and performance, Jia’s oeuvres demonstrate the powerful performativity of different modes of realism arising out of a state of conundrum when China undergoes a transition from planned economy into wholesale marketisation and globalisation.

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Filming Space/Mapping Reality in Chinese Independent Documentary Films Page 22

Judith Pernin

This article is a general attempt to sum up and challenge some of the issues the notion of Space raises when in contact with the Chinese independent documentary film movement. I will focus my analysis on how this concept influences the choice of topics, the roles it plays during the shooting process and how the representation of space in these films is linked to the emergence of a new documentary aesthetic and practice.

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Filming Power and the Powerless: Zhao Liang’s Crime and Punishment(2007) and Petition(2009) Page 33

Jie Li

This article discusses two recent works by emerging documentary auteur Zhao Liang, Crime and Punishment(2007) and Petition(2009). These penetrating observations of state-society relations in contemporary China render visible those who are un(der)represented, critique the deception of mass media images, and show the various complex ways in which power is connected to surveillance and visibility. Thus the filmmaker, his camera, and the spectators are implicated in power relationships as we cast voyeuristic, panoptic, activist, empathetic, or critical gazes upon the representatives of state power and upon the disenfranchised.

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Special feature: Documents

Irrepressible Images New Films in China from 1995 Page 46

Jia Zhangke

Jia Zhangke, who had long accompanied his activities as a film-maker with theoretical reflections in the form of short articles, recently published a collection of his selected writings entitled Jia Xiang. Jia Zhangke dianying shouji 1996- 2008. Pai dianying shi wo jiejin ziyou de fangshi, Beijing, Peking University Press, 2009 (Jia’s thoughts. Jia Zhangke’s film notes 1996-2008. Making films is my way of approaching freedom). Bringing together many important texts, this publication marks a retrospective moment in his work. Three essays have been selected for translation in this issue: “Irrepressible Images,” written in 2002, but which is also a reworking of two seminal essays published in 1998, “The Age of amateur cinema is about to return” and “Now that we have VCDs and digital video cameras.” The article sets out Jia Zhangke’s view of how independent film in China developed since the early 1990s. It is followed by one essay on Jia’s documentary In Public, dealing more specifically with space as an inspiration for film. Also in 2009, to accompany his latest film, 24 City, Jia published a collection of the interviews on which the film is based, entitled: Zhongguo gongren fangtan lu. Ershisi cheng ji(Interviews with Chinese workers. 24 City). A Collective memory of Chinese Working class, Jinan, Shandong huabao chubanshe. The preface to this collection is also included in this issue. (SV)

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In Public in My Own Words Page 52

Jia Zhangke

What Remains is SIlence Page 54

Jia Zhangke

Building a Public Consciousness: A Conversation with Jia Zhangke Page 58

Sebastian Veg

This text is transcribed from the recording of a panel discussion organised on 13 April 2009 by the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, as part of the symposium “Between public and private : A space for independent Chinese cinema.” Jia Zhangke’s answers to two additional audience questions have been inserted into the discussion where they seemed most relevant.

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“My motivation is to depict people I can identify with”: An Interview with Ning Ying Page 66

S. Louisa Wei

Ning Ying was admitted to the Beijing Film Academy in 1978 together with the “core” filmmakers of China’s Fifth Generation, but she left China for Italy in 1980 and completed her film training in the Rome Film Experimental Academy in 1986. After returning to China the next year, she first worked as Bernardo Bertolucci’s assistant director for The Last Emperor (1987). She made her directorial debut with a commercially successful film Someone Loves Just Me (You ren pianpian aishang wo, 1990), and then directed her “Beijing Trilogy”: For Fun( Zhao le, 1992), On the Beat( Minjing gushi, 1995), and I Love Beijing( Xiari nuan yangyang, 2000). For Funand On the Beatreceived many awards at international film festivals, and her realistic representation of contemporary China is highly regarded. Ning Ying’s 2001 documentary Railroad of Hope( Xiwang zhi lü) won the Grand Prize at the Cinema du Réel festival in Paris. Her 2005 feature Perpetual Motion(Wuqiong dong) was awarded “Most Original Film” at the Rome Asian Film Festival in 2006. (SLW)

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“My Work Constitutes a Form of Participatory Action”: An Interview with Ai Xiaoming Page 71

Peng YurongJudith Pernin

Ai Xiaoming, born in 1953 in Wuhan, is a retired professor in the literature department of Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-Sen University. Following an academic career in comparative literature, she came out as a public intellectual, initially through involvement in defending women’s and gays rights. She organised many activities to raise awareness on issues such as discrimination and violence against women, the most famous of which was the translation and staging of The Vagina Monologueswith her students. While she initially used documentary filmmaking as a tool to record and disseminate these activities for educative purposes, she quickly extended her work on video to the documenting of current cases of public violations of rights. In the past few years, she has produced a corpus of around ten independent documentaries on subjects such as village elections and property rights, AIDS, and the Sichuan earthquake scandal. (JP)

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New Chinese Cinema at the HKIFF: A Look Back at the Last 20 Years Page 78

Jacob WongWong Ain-LingLi Cheuk-To

The Hong Kong International Film Festival was one of the earliest places where new Chinese films were shown outside China. In this article, three curators involved in the selection explain how they were first received.

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Public Opinion and the Death Penalty Debate in China Page 85

Zhang Ning

What role does public opinion play in the present debate over the death penalty in China? Should one settle for an image of unanimous public support for the death penalty? The starting point of this article is a study of the growing awareness among Chinese legal experts, during the first decade of the millennium, of the particular role played by public opinion. Faced with violent opposition to their project to abolish the death penalty for economic crimes, legal experts share their concerns when confronted with such popular pressures, which can be reminiscent of certain Maoist practices. Using analyses of certain recent cases, the author seeks to bring out the other dimensions that make up public opinion, in order to question an idea that is ambiguous and problematical in the context of today’s China.

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The Emergence of a Collaborative Approach Challenges Hong Kong’s Urban Planning Model Page 97

Nicolas Douay

Urban planning in Hong Kong is being transformed with the expansion of civil society and the development of various community movements. They are posing a challenge to current urban planning practices and throwing up conditions for a collaborative approach to urban planning, fashioning alternative strategies.

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Current Affairs

China Analysis Page 110

Candice Tran DaiThomas Vendryes

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Book Reviews

Lung Yingtai, Da jiang da hui – 1949 (Big River, big sea. untold stories of 1949) and Chi pang-yuan, Ju liu he (The River of Big Torrents) Page 114

Leo Ou-Fan Lee

Larissa N. Heinrich, The Afterlife of Images: Translating the Pathological Body between China and the West Page 117

David Luesink

Jay Taylor, The Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China Page 119

Huang Tzu-Chin

Pallavi Aiyar, Smoke and Mirrors: An Experience of China Page 120

N. Jayaram

Yan Hairong, New Masters, New Servants: Migration, Development, and Women Workers in China Page 122

Mei-Lin Ellerman

Anne-Marie Brady, Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China Page 124

Marie-Eve Reny



























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