A collection of reviews of films from off the beaten path; a travel guide for those who love the cinematic world and want more than the mainstream releases.
Friday, October 26, 2018
Spring Dreams: The Cinema of Huang Ji and Yang Lina at the Metrograph starting November 30
Beginning Saturday November 3, Metrograph will present "Spring Dreams: The Cinema of Huang Ji and Yang Lina," with the filmmakers appearing in-person. The mainstream Mainland film industry remains largely a boy’s club, but a few independent women directors work defiantly outside of the rigged system. Enter Huang Ji and Yang Lina, two stubbornly self-sufficient artists doing things their own way. Huang, drawing from her own life experience, has become the foremost cinematic chronicler of the daughters of the “left-behind” generation, negotiating a hostile environment that extends few protections to women. Yang, a dancer-turned-documentarian who had a small role in Jia Zhangke’s Platform (2000), broke through with the independent nonfiction classic Old Men (1999), and more recently has turned to fiction with the sensual ghost story Longing for the Rain (2013). “It’s difficult work because the authorities do not intend to give you the good soil to grow,” says Yang of her outsider’s practice, but the work of these remarkable filmmakers is proof that their sheer determination has brought forth an extraordinary harvest.
Part of the Creative China Festival 2018. Supported by the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation.
Egg and Stone (Huang Ji/2012/97 mins/DCP) A soul-baring autobiographical work drawing directly from director Huang’s own life, Egg and Stone is set in the rural Hunan province village of her youth, portraying the struggles of a 14-year-old girl, Honggui (Honggui Yao, leading an adept cast of nonprofessionals), living with an aunt and uncle, and left to come to terms with her blossoming sexual maturity without the benefit of parental guidance. Huang lovingly captures the textures of the world of her girlhood, while pulling no punches in portraying the routine misogyny and body shame of that same world. Saturday, November 3 - 5:30pm - Q&A with Huang Ji
Foolish Bird (Huang Ji/2017/118 mins/DCP) Returning to the subject of China’s “left-behind children”—sent to live with relatives while their parents seek better paying work elsewhere—Huang crafts the intimate, troubling tale of Lynn (Honggui Yao, returning), a teenager trying to find her way in the dead-end Hunan province town where she lives with her grandparents, hemmed in on all sides by seemingly insurmountable social barriers, routine abuse of power, and the threat of sexual violence, her only refuge her friendship with another local girl, May (Fang Yao). Grimly grand, and as tough as the truth. Sunday, November 4 - 1:45pm - Q&A with Huang Ji
Longing for the Rain (Yang Lina/2013/95 mins/DCP) Yang had to shoot her fiction feature debut in Hong Kong, knowing that Chinese censors wouldn’t approve the subject matter of her erotically charged drama. Comfortable housewife Fang Lei (Siyuan Zhao) has achieved the “Chinese Dream” spoken of by Xi Jinping, but something is missing—something she can’t qualify until the vision of a consummate lover appears to her in dreams, and her craving for his touch begins to take over her waking life. A new gloss on the Chinese ghost story, a taboo acknowledgement of spiritual starvation in the nouveau riche middle classes, and a scathing indictment of patriarchal society. Sunday, November 4 - 4:30pm - Q&A with Yang Lina
Old Men(Yang Lina/1999/94 mins/DCP) A quiet, observational film that embeds us among a community of senior citizens in a Beijing suburb—the most honored members of society according to the old Confucian system, but in modern China, increasingly marginalized and disposable. One of the first DV-shot nonfiction films to come from China, presaging the work of Wang Bing, and a prizewinner at Cinéma du Réel in 2000, making it a landmark in wider international recognition of independent Chinese documentary—a field in which women like Yang continue to fight for recognition. Saturday, November 17 - 8:15pm - Introduced by Wang Bing