Tuesday, January 30, 2007

blogathon - Tiexi Qu

Before posting my (little) contribution (also on Chinese documentary) on this blogathon organized by Harry on Unspoken Cinema, here is an extract of a text I wrote a few years ago and that I readjusted and which I thought would fit with the subject.

Tiexi Qu is a surprising documentary as it lasts 9 hours and the question of time, the perception of time flowing, in the film and beyond the film, are interesting to examine.

West of the Tracks (Tiexi Qu) 2003, 9 hours in 3 parts, by Wang Bing
Awarded at Yamagata International Documentary Festival, the Festival 3 Continents.....

The Tiexi district is a gigantic industrial complex in Shenyang in China's north-east. It was established during the Japanese occupation in the 20s and transformed into a highly populated industrial area. From the Nineties, the Tiexi Qu district which received support from the State before gradually dismantles to become a forgotten zone where the factories are closing down one by one and where the working class area must be demolished, thus, dislodging its inhabitants.

This long documentary takes us away to this now decaying area and is divided into three parts entitled “Rust”, “Remnants” and “Rails”. They are independent of each other and were shot in DV between 1999 and 2001. Wang Bing stayed over there during these years while living near these workers and inhabitants.
In the three films, the camera does not imposed itself and Wang Bing does not use interviews nor the voice over; he rarely directly intrudes himself.
The camera is thus present and absent at the same time because it keeps a certain distance and seems to be forgotten by the people who are being filmed.
Sometimes they tell a story describing a period of their life or show their worries, questionings and anguish concerning their dubious future.

Each part constitutes a film to itself and develops a well defined subject in a specific and different place.
In the first part, entitled Rust, Wang Bing sticks to the every day life of the last workers of the last factories and in particular of the copper foundries and the last blast furnaces. The second part, Remnants follows the inhabitants of the working area, the Rainbow Row, while in the third part, Tracks, Wang Bing accompanies the employees of the railways company which ensures the transport of the raw materials and of the manufactured goods out of Shenyang.

Each part is also conceived and structured differently.
Thus, if the first part offers a linear approach by showing the daily life of several workers in these factories, the second is more detached in a sense that it displays several stories which could almost become a fiction, finally, the third returns even more closely and more psychologically in the people's personal life and centers on the Old Du and his son.

Each one borrows a singular story, and yet, the stories are intersected in the real time, so that the same time or the same period of time can be found in another part but at a different place. That was possible, technically, thanks to the result of the work of the editing, and, physically and in real time, thanks to the rail network which, thus, enabled him to move more easily.
This conception to undertake a cubist form of time results also from the choice of a slow but never long pace. The seasons ravel in front of our eyes but they are elastic since some seem to stretch themselves such as winter whereas others are curtailed such as spring or are simply hardly seen, even almost non-existent such as the warmer seasons. However the years are passing away and we go from one year to another knowing that we had already seen the year that has just disappeared and will see it again later in another part.

Tiexi Qu : West of tracks is a monumental film and whose three parts are equally well made, each one with their unique strength.
Wang Bing succeeds in erasing the duration of this (or these) floating film(s) and in restructuring the time by several manners also :
- the fact of dividing the film into three independent parts (with 3 subtitles evoking the notion of time), each one focusing on a specific theme
- adopting a cinematic and narrative structure which is suitable for each part (the two longer parts that last over three hours are divided into two parts and the last part is centered on a character)
- the insertion of the travelings along the railways which gives a certain pace to the film (as time is motion)
- the real filmed like a fiction, the gap between fiction and documentary has become more blur.

The nine hours which summarize not only two years lived in Tiexi, but, which also wrap up several human lives, and more generally, a whole past full of History, become necessary and finally inevitable in order to seize, through this slow process of dismantlement and decay, the repercussions from the economic changes in China, but also the decline and the end of an era of the Chinese History.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

[DL] Where ?

Directors Lounge 2007 • february 8-18 • Berlin F´hain, Karl Marx Allee 133
No Admission Fee. Daily from 6 pm open end....
Our venue, the formerly Cafe Kosmos. In the back on the left the red enlighted Kosmos, once known as the famous Filmtheater Kosmos. Build in 1961, it was the state-of-the-art Cinema of the GDR with 1001 seats. A cinematic flagship near the landmarks of the monumental socialist boulevard Karl Marx Allee the two domed towers on Frankfurter Tor It isn´t without a subtle irony that the old lounge of the cinema Kosmos, now turned into a multipurpose hall and discotheque, becomes the place to serve the finest cinematic tidbits.



Berlin International Film Festival

From the Press Releases
Competition Section 2007
- Hyazgar (Desert Dream) by Zhang Lu, Republic of Korea/France (World Premiere)
- Ping guo (Lost In Beijing) by Li Yu, China (World Premiere)
- Sai bo gu ji man gwen chan a (I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok) by Park Chan-wook, Republic of Korea (International Premiere)
- Tu ya de hun shi (Tuya's Marriage) by Wang Quan'an, China (World Premiere)

Films in the Forum 2007
- a.k.a. Nikki S. Lee by Nikki S. Lee, USA/Republic of Korea (IP)
- Ad Lib Night (Aju teukbyeolhan sonnim) by Lee Yoon-ki, Republic of Korea (IP)
- Campaign (Senkyo) by Kazuhiro Soda, USA/Japan (WP)
- Dol by Hiner Saleem,Iraqi Kurdistan Region/France/Germany (IP)
- Eye in the Sky (Gen zong) by Yau Nai Hoi, Hongkong, China (WP)
- Ichijiku no kao (Faces of a Fig Tree) by Momoi Kaori, Japan (IP)
- Kain no matsuei (Cain’s Descendant) by Oku Shutaro, Japan
- Mona Lisa (Meng Na Li Sha) by Li Ying, People’s Republic of China/Japan (WP)
- Tuli by Auraeus Solito, Philippines
- Village People Radio Show (Apa khabar orang kampung) by Amir Muhammad, Malaysia (WP)
Special screenings:
- Don by Farhan Akhtar, India

Complete programme at the end of January,
for now :
From the Republic of Korea:
- Dasepo Sonyeo (Dasepo Naughty Girls) by E. J-Yong
- Haebyuneui Yoein (Woman on the Beach) by Hong Sangsoo
- Hu-hwae-ha-ji An-ah (No Regret) by Leesong Hee-il
From Taiwan:
- Ci-Qing (Spider Lilies) by Zero Chou


International Film Festival of Rotterdam

International Film Festival of Rotterdam (24.01 - 04.02)
Impressive line-up, many Asian films and especially from Malaysia and Philippines, countries from which the films will be surely very noticeable and distinguished this year in film festivals. Two filmmakers in focus : Abderrahmane Sissako and Johnnie To.

VPRO Tiger Awards Competition
- How is your fish today? by Xiaolu Guo, China 2006, international premiere
Road movie in which a scriptwriter and the protagonist in his film, a murderer, travelled to the most northerly point of China to meet each other eventually in silence. Fiction and reality flow together. link
- Ju-yon-sai (Fourteen) by Hirosue Hiromasa, Japan, 2006, international premiere
Sensitive and refined drama in which experiences from the puberty of a female teacher and a piano student reflected in the world of the younger generation they have contact with. link
- Love Conquers All by Tan Chui Mui, Malaysia, 2006, European premiere
Sensitive and unspoken mood sketch of the inner world of a young woman who falls into the hands of a big-city lover who turns out to be a pimp in Kuala Lumpur. link

Cinema of the Future: Sturm und Drang
- Betelnut by Yang Heng, China, 2006
Two kids share love, desire and boredom in a long hot summer on the banks of a river in Hunan, three hours by plane plus three hours by bus from Beijing. Even the camera doesn’t move… Yang Heng’s debut is beautifully photographed, wonderfully acted and ultra low budget. It has already won prizes in Pusan and Nantes. link and see here
- Autohystoria by Raya Martin, Philippines, 2007
Idiosyncratic and rather uneasy film by a great talent. A film like a dream. A work of art that is occasionally difficult to get hold of, with a tangible heart. link
- Balikbayan Box (work in progress) by Mes De Guzman, Philippines, 2007
A kid in the Filipino countryside. Everything is smaller and poorer than Cinema Paradiso, but the VHS cinema also appeals to the imagination. Innocence is soon lost and death is closer. Not everything is idyllic under the palm trees. link
- Before We Fall in Love Again (Nian ni ru xi) by James Lee, Malaysia 2006
Chang’s wife has disappeared and no one knows where she went. After a while, Tong drops by. He was her lover, but doesn’t know where she is either. In these circumstances, both men can’t think of anything better to do than compare experiences. Who was she really? Simple and subtle, occasionally ironic, but above all deeply romantic and melancholic. link
- Dancing Bells (Chalanggai) by Deepak Kumaran Menon, Malaysia, 2007
A girl really wants to learn to dance. Classical Indian dance. Isn’t easy if you grow up without a father in Brickfields, the rundown Indian district of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. And then your brother ends up going astray. Realistic in a way that the Italians have forgotten about. link
- Dog Days Dream (Hayabusa) by Ichii Masahide, Japan, 2006
A hot summer in a small apartment. A young couple with menial jobs they also lose. And no air conditioning. That is all this young Japanese director needs to make a very funny black comedy. link
- Driving with My Wife's Lover (Ane-eui aein-eul mannada) by Kim Tai-Sik, South Korea, 2006
Self-assured, fresh feature debut starts as a revenge-drama-cum-road-movie: deceived husband gets in the taxi of his wife’s lover one sweltering hot day. While the man hesitates about revealing his identity, the film changes its tone. Complex character study about trust, betrayal, desire and identity. link
- The Elephant and the Sea by Woo Ming Jin, Malaysia, 2007
An elephant has disappeared and its owner must live without it. The sea has withdrawn again, but the after-effects are tangible and visible. The inhabitants of a coastal village make the best of it, legally or not. A characteristic feature film. link
- The Matsugane Potshot Affair (Matsugane ransha jiken) by Yamashita Nobuhiro, Japan, 2006
Family tragedy, fraternal quarrel or crime story? The Matsugane Potshot Affair is all three. A curious collection of apparently independent plots comes together when a gold bar and a head are found in a small provincial town. Suspense, black humour and tragedy all in one. By the maker of Linda Linda Linda. link
- The Other Half (Ling yi ban) by Ying Liang, China, 2006
Xiaofen works as an assistant in a law firm, but has as many problems as her clients. The latest film in in vérité style by the talented Ying Liang, last year one of the major surprises in the Tiger Competition with Taking Father Home, is both socially and psychologically complex. The position of women in today’s China is examined. link
- Rain Dogs (Tai yang yu) by Ho Yuhang, Malaysia, Hong Kong, 2006 link
- Raised from Dust (Ju zi chen tu) by Gan Xiao'er, China, 2007
Like his debut, The Only Sons (IFFR 2004), Gan’s second film is set in a Christian community in rural China. With his sharp eye for landscape and his fellow countrymen, he manages to draw great emotional eloquence from a simple story about an impossible dilemma. Modest and spiritual. link
- Real Online (Ching teng jou hsien shih) by John Hsu, Taiwan, 2005
Hilarious virtual comedy. For the screening at the festival, the Chinese pirate copy of YouTube has been removed. Entirely in the spirit of the film that ignores every single law of film, and certainly any that decide whether something is nice or not. link
- Todo todo teros by John Torres, Philippines, 2006
Basically an artist is also a terrorist, the protagonist thinks in an unguarded moment. And if he is a terrorist after all, then he might just as well be one. Not an instant product, but an experimental feature in which diary material is brought together to form an intriguing puzzle. link
- Weed by Wang Liren, China, 2007
Echoes of Kieslovski’s Dekaloog sound in this inventive and strikingly stylised drama of decline. About a simple day-wage slave in the suburbs of Beijing who falls for the girl who lives opposite, even though everything points to the fact that her profession is not the most honourable. link

Cinema of the World : Time and Tide
- After This Our Exile (Fu zi) by Patrick Tam, Hong Kong, 2006 link
- Anxiety (Gubra) by Yasmin Ahmad, Malaysia, 2006 link
- The Bet Collector (Kubrador) by Jeffrey Jeturian, Philippines, 2006 link
- A Dirty Carnival (Bi-yeol-han geo-ri) by Yoo Ha, South Korea, 2006 link
- Forever Flows (Nirontor) by Abu Sayeed, Bangladesh, 2006 link
- Half Moon (Niwemang) by Bahman Ghobadi, Iran, Iraq, Austria, France link
- I Want to Dance (Kaishuiyaotang, guniangyaozhuang) by Hu Shu, China, 2007 link
- The Journey (Yatra) by Goutam Ghose, India, 2006
- Living in Fear (Song trong so hai) by Bui Thac Chuyen, Vietnam, 2006
- My Mother Is a Belly Dancer (See lai ng yi cho) by Lee Kung Lok, Hong Kong, 2006
- On the Wings of Dreams (Swopnodanay) by Golam Rabbany Biplob, Bangladesh, 2007
- Sankara by Prasanna Jayakody, Sri Lanka, 2006
- Squatterpunk (Iskwaterpangk) by Khavn, Philippines, 2007 link
- Stories from the North (Reanglao jak meangnue) by Uruphong Raksasad, Thailand, 2006 link
- Strawberry Shortcakes by Yazaki Hitoshi, Japan, 2007 link
- Summer Palace by Lou Ye, China, 2006 link
- Western Trunk Line (Xi gan dao) by Li Jixian, China, Japan 2006 link
- Zero Zone (Shoonya) by Arindam Mitra, India, 2007 link

Maestros : Kings & Aces
- Bakushi by Hiroki Ryuichi, Japan, 2007 link
- Dong by Jia Zhang-ke, China, 2006 link
- Hana (Hana yori mo naho) by Kore-Eda Hirokazu, Japan, 2006 link
- Heremias (Book One: The Legend of the Lizard Princess) (Heremias (Unang Aklat: Ang Alamat ng Prinsesang Bayawak)) by Lav Diaz, Philippines, 2006 - 540' link
- I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (Hei yan quan) by Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan, France, Austria, 2006 link
- In the Shadow of the Dog (Nayi neralu) by Girish Kasaravalli, India, 2006 link
- M by Hiroki Ryuichi, Japan, 2006 link
- Offside by Jafar Panahi, Iran, 2006 link
- Opera Jawa by Garin Nugroho, Indonesia, Austria, 2006 link
- Paprika by Kon Satoshi, Japan, 2006 link
- Retribution (Sakebi) by Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Japan, 2006 link
- Scream of the Ants (Shaere Zobale-Ha) by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, India, France, 2006 link
- Still Life (Sanxia haoren) by Jia Zhang-ke, Hong Kong, China, 2006 link
- Syndromes and a Century (Sang sattawat) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand, France, Austria, 2006 link

Rotterdämmerung see here
- Aachi & Ssipak (Aachi wa Ssipak) by Joe Bum-Jin, South Korea, 2006
- Freesia (Freesia - Bullet over Tears) by Kumakiri Kazuyoshi, Japan, 2007
- The Host (Gue-Mool) by Bong Joon-Ho, South Korea, 2006
- Nightmare Detective (Akumu Tantei) by Tsukamoto Shinya, Japan
- No Mercy for the Rude (Ye-ui-up-nun-gut-deul) by Park Chul-Hee, South Korea, 2006


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

[DL] - More Specials

Some updates. More specials have been announced :

Directors Lounge Specials

In Focus A I C Sao Paulo, Brazil
AIC Films is a co-production of Academia Internacional de Cinema and Rattapallax, Inc. to showcase some of the best films produced at this fresh school. Academia Internacional de Cinema (International Academy of Film) is an innovative educational institution that uses key elements from the best film schools around the world to create a highly specialized and creative program.
Curated by Ram Deveneni from Rattapallax.

Australian Gothic
will be a survey show of current emerging and established Australian video artists.
Evidenced work will reflect a 'Gothic' mode, as further discussed by Gerry Turcotte in his essay 'Australian Gothic' (Turcotte, 1995), including Brendan Lee's Two Birds with One Stone, Brie Trenerry's fly infested Sleep Paralysis and Tammy Honey's pop-desire
Curated by Dr Shaun Wilson

In Focus LiveBox Chicago
LiveBox, a non-for profit space, utilizes Chicago's neighborhoods and skyline as galleries.LiveBox focus on filmic art that can be effectively experienced on a single monitor. Single channel video is the primary medium, however, web based, real time, interactive work; fundamentally any compelling new media idea fitting an appropriation with the screen will be considered.
Curated by Catherine Forster

Places & Traces (working title)
Themed program with it´s main focus on new animated shorts
Again we present animated shorts from stop-motion to pure CG. Highlights and emerging artists from all parts of the world will give an overview of the actual state of this specific genre. Curated by Kim Collmer of "Forming Motion" fame.

previous announcements :


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Jia Zhangke & Zhang Weiping

Golden Lion-winning Chinese director Jia Zhangke is considering defamation proceedings against film producer Zhang Weiping's over allegations that his Venice Film Festival award was fixed.   
In an open letter to Zhang, director Zhang Yimou's long-time producer, who also produced the box office hit "Curse of the Golden Flower", Jia responded to Zhang's comment in a newspaper that Jia's film "Still Life" had won the Golden Lion because Venice Film Festival director Marco Muller had invested in it.  
In a report carried by Monday's Chongqing Evening Post, Zhang Weiping was quoted as saying that Jia Zhangke and Marco Muller manipulated the award of the top prize to "Still Life" at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year.  
"I hope Mr. Zhang will provide evidence to prove that Marco Muller is an investor in Still Life," Jia said in the letter. "Your comment has already harmed my reputation and I'm considering resorting to legal procedures."   
Zhang Weiping is a long-time partner of director Zhang Yimou, who produced "House of Flying Daggers", "Hero", "Happy Times", "Not One Less", and "The Road Home".  
Zhang Yimou has won two Golden Lions for "The Story of Qiu Ju" in 1992 and "Not One Less" in 1999, the latter produced by Zhang Weiping.   
Jia's "Still Life" was released on the Chinese mainland this month, putting it head to head with Zhang Yimou's imperial palace drama "Curse of the Golden Flower", starring Chow Yun-fat and Gong Li.  
Jia has criticized the over-commercialization of Chinese film as hurting artistic films and the prospects of cultivating new talent.

from CriEnglish


Best of 2006 - Asian films

Since I've done this by year of production, here is a temporary best of films made in 2006 (see post here for 2005 and 2004).
Most are seen at film festivals or alike and many others will be seen in 2007. I must say that I probably haven't seen as many films this year as I have ever seen before, and quite funny hardly any US or European films (and actually not even a single one made this year).
I can already notice a few things. First despite the huge amount of Korean films, I must say that the novelty and originality stand out less, more and more Korean films are produced and are appreciated, many remain in genre films, big budget films. However, some are entertained and very well done, particularly in the crime/gangster genre films. Kim Ki-duk's Time and Hong Sang-soo's Woman of the Beach (two mature directors) don't differ much or don't show any kind of innovation (as already said in previous post).
Innovation was for me, for this year, more in the documentaries or in South Eastern Asian films, films from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines, countries from which the films and new filmmakers, I am pretty sure, will come up with more international recognition.
As for China, where the independent production still continues and is still developing, surely some young new filmmakers will arise while Jia Zhangke is now internationally acclaimed even though, to me, his first films were the best and more interesting ones (I had a little disappointment with Still Life and Dong).
Again, this is a personal with no consensus.

1. I don’t Want to sleep Alone (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan, fiction)
2. Yellow Box (Huang Ting-fu, Taiwan, doc)
3. Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho, Indonesia, fiction)
4. Stories From the North (Uruphong Raksasad, Thailand, doc)
5. The Last Communist (Amir Muhammad, Malaysia, doc)
6. Betelnut (Yang Heng, China, fiction)
7. Election 2 (Johnnie To, HK, fiction), Exiled was ok.
8. Invisible Waves (Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, Thailand, fiction)
9. Dong/Still Life (Jia Zhangke, China, fiction&doc)
10. Isabella (Pang Ho-Cheung, HK)

Others quite good & worth watching :
Dog Bite Dog (Soi Cheang, HK, fiction), Exiled (Johnnie To, HK), No Mercy for the Rude (Park Cheol-hie, South Korea), After this Our Exile (Patrick Tam,HK), Tazza : The High Rollers (Choi Dong-hun, South Korea), Luxury Car (Wang Chao, China), Crazy Stone (Ning Hao, China)...

update 03/2007.