Chinese Documentary Films @ NY

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Documentary Festival 2006

At New York University

Sept. 29, Sept. 30, Oct. 7, 2006

Chinese documentaries have never been as dynamic and vital as they are
today. More than a decade after the emergence of the new documentary
movement in Beijing, documentary-making has become widespread, especially
with the advent of digital technology and the profound transformations of
Chinese society.

NYU Cinema Studies 721 Broadway room 656

All the events are open to the public and free of charge.

Friday, September 29 2:00pm: Program One

Introduction by Zhang Zhen

Dr. Zhang Directed by Huang Ruxiang, 90 mins; 2005; English
Dr. Zhang is a man around fifty who has a long-cherished dream to work in
Russia as an interpreter. Forced to quit school in 1966 when the Cultural
Revolution just started, he was determined to teach himself Russian.
Later, he became a regular auditor in the Foreign Languages Department of
Sichuan University and studied for seventeen years, hence the nickname
"Doctor Zhang." In the meantime, he scratched a living as a cleaner for
the school and lived in a basement. His chance came when in 2002 the
Agriculture Bureau of Sichuan Province started recruiting students
majoring in Russian as part of a labor export program regarding Russia.
Dr. Zhang was selected. Waiting for his passport, he participated in a TV
talk show in Hebei Province. However, after he came back, he discovered
that the Bureau had decided to remove him from the export labor list. Dr.
Zhang had to go back to his original life and kept hoping for another
opportunity. One day, he got a phone call that assured him that he could
go to Russia now. He began to pack happily and boarded the train for

Lao Li¨s Little House Directed by Li Qiang, 18 mins; 2006;
English subtitles
Lao Li lives in a small farmhouse in Fangshan, Donghai County in the Subei
region of Jiangsu Province. In 2003, he was the last farmer left on land
sold by the government to local brick factories. They have been digging
out the dirt and firing bricks to send to cities to build the new
highrises. This film documents Lao Li¨s life on the literally diminishing
rural landscape, as he and his wife continue to plant corn, raise birds
and fish in the little pond. It is a lyrical and very moving account of
how China¨s countryside is changing faster than most people can imagine.

Roundtable discussion: featuring Andrew Ross (Cultural and Social
Analysis, NYU), Dan Streible (Cinema Studies, NYU), Angela Zito
(Anthropology/Religious Studies, NYU), and moderated by Zhang Zhen (Cinema
Studies, NYU). The filmmakers Huang Ruxiang and Li Qiang will join the
discussion by telephone.

6-7 pm: Opening Reception

Saturday, September 30 10:00am: Program Two

Nostalgia Directed by Haolun Shu, 70 mins; 2006; English Subtitles
Shu¨s family has an old house in Da Zhongli, one of Shanghai¨s oldest
neighborhoods. The Shus have lived there for three generations including
the filmmaker himself. Now his grandma lives there alone as Da Zhongli
faces a new round of so-called ^Urban Reconstruction, ̄ which means that
the whole neighborhood is going to be completely demolished to make way
for gleaming skyscrapers. Shu decides to revisit his childhood home and
the people of the neighborhood with his camera.

White Tower
Directed by Su Qing and Mi Na, 85 mins; 2003; English Subtitles
There are more than 20 million deaf people in China and Henan Province,
where this story takes place, ranks No.1 in China in terms of the size of
its deaf population. Jing Ming and Wang Rui are both deaf. Jing Ming lives
in Zhengzhou, and Wang Rui lives in Kaifeng, both in the Henan Province.
Jing has had two marriages with normal women before. He falls in love with
Wang, who is a lively, beautiful, and warm-hearted girl. They frequently
exchange their thoughts and feelings via brief messages on the cell phone.
However, Wang had been already engaged to a deaf older man from Taiwan.
Jing fails in his efforts to keep Wang. One year later, Wang was divorced
and returned to Kaifeng while Jing still lives in Zhengzhou. They rarely
see each other now.

2:00pm Program Three

High School Senior Year
Directed by Zhou Hao, 95 mins; 2005; English subtitles In the No.1 High
School of Wuping County in western Fujian Province, 78 high school seniors
have only one chance to advance to higher education: through taking the
annual national entrance exam. Eighty percent of the students in the
school come from surrounding rural areas. Their parents tell them that if
they don¨t want to become farmers, the entrance exam to high education is
their only chance to change their lives. The documentary records the
hardworking, high-pressured as well as lonely lives of a group of
seventeen-or-eighteen-year-old seniors who are Hakka descendants. As one
student puts it, ^I can¨t stand the idea to go through another senior
year. ̄

The Bimo Records
Directed by Yang Rui, 90 mins; 2006; English subtitles
In the Daliang mountains of Sichuan Province lives the tribal Yi minority.
Their priests are called bimo. For hundreds of years, the Bimo have relied
on memorized scriptures to communicate their people¨s desires with the
ghosts and spirits of the world.The film follows the stories of three very
different Bimos. The ^Spell-casting Bimo ̄ specializes in black magic
rituals where one curse is enough to hurt, even kill, a person. But with
the Chinese government¨s prohibition of these ceremonies, he has fallen
from a position of feared power to sad unemployment. The ^Soul-calling
Bimo, ̄ the respected master of white magic, cures the sick and calls to
souls for help and good fortune. But his past hides sadness and pain. In
his quest to birth a son to whom he can pass on his Bimo scriptures, he
has married four wives. By the time he has a son at 64, his abandoned
previous three wives have died heart-broken and alone.
The ^Village Cadre Bimo ̄ is a rare case among the Yi people: he is
empowered by the Communist government with religious Bimo and political
cadre status. He holds power in the worlds of people and spirits. However,
when he abuses this power during the village mayoral elections, he is
dismissed by the government. This visually stunning documentary weaves
their stories together, providing us with a glimpse of their religious
life in the midst of tremendous social change.

Saturday, October 7
10:00am: Program Four

Introduction by Shiyan-Chao

Beautiful Men
Directed by Du Haibing, 98 mins; 2005; English Subtitles
This documentary explores a well-known drag bar in Chengdu, China and
records a slice of the life of three drag queen dancers, on and off stage.
Sister Sha, first love of the bar owner and now the joke of the troupe,
still practices and manages to dance at the age of 47. Qingqing, the
famous veteran dancer, accidentally married a girl and became the father
of a baby daughter. Xixi, the rising star, delicately maintains a
relationship with his lesbian girlfriend, and plans a marriage for their
parents. Every night starting at 10 PM, they become the opposite sex for
90 minutes, to perform a ballet or folk dance, for a life or for a living.
Year by year, peach blossoms remain the same, while smiling faces are

Mei Mei
Directed by Gao Tien, 82 mins; 2005; English Subtitles
Mei Mei is a transvestite male actor eager to find his true love. He
searches among gays and transvestites. In 2004 he finally meets his match
in a man who also accepts Mei Mei as who he is. They have a public wedding
ceremony. Mei Mei is very confident about his marriage and the new life
ahead. His friends throw a farewell party for him before he leaves for
Shanghai, where he and his love would embark on a new life together.
However, things are not as perfect as planned, and his marriage proves
harder than expected. Finally Mei Mei comes back to Beijing. He feels
embarrassed when running into old friends, especially as his financial
plight worsens. A personal and intimate account of Mei Mei¨s life and

2:00pm: Program Five

Introduction by Mai Kiang

The Girls That Way
Directed by Shadow ZHANG and Jude TIAN, 30 min; 2005; English Subtitles
THE GIRLS THAT WAY follows a group of close friends in Beijing who find
kinship and inspiration in a community they have built collectively.
Paddy, Elsa, Shane and the others primarily meet through the Internet.
Different in each of their own ways, they all share an attraction for
women. One of the very first published lesbian home movies/documentaries
in China, THE GIRLS THAT WAY opens our heart to their tender testimonies
that are often silenced and reinterpreted. With poise and candor, the
film gives witness to this marginalized community which is now empowered
through self-reliance. For some girls, ^that way ̄ is THE way in
today¨s China.

Gender Game
Directed by Bai Zi, 50 mins; 2006; English Subtitles
Angel is from a small city in the north where she cannot lively openly as
a lesbian. She is now living in Shanghai in search of love and a decent
living. Adrift between lovers and jobs that do not pay enough for her to
provide for her Shanghai girlfriends, she finds herself lonely and
increasingly disillusioned. The film is produced by the Shanghai-based
Beautiful Union Studio, devoted to the promotion of women¨s independence
through visual media.

Women 50 Minutes
Directed by Shi Tou, 50 mins; 2006; English Subtitles
Composed from footage shot in the developing regions of Tibet, Qinghai
and the southwest, as well as metropolitan Beijing between 2000 and 2004,
the film presents at once a meditative and provocative panorama of China
in transformation and the changing lives of women. Its combination of
narrative and experimental moments provides an edgy and beautiful
counterpoint to more straightforward recent social documentary.

Roundtable discussion: featuring Shi-yan Chao (Cinema Studies, NYU), Mai
Kiang (Cinema Studies, NYU and Institute of Tongzhi Studies), and Chris
Straayer (Cinema Studies, NYU) who will also moderate the discussions.

6-7 pm: Closing Reception

The third Reel China Documentary Festival will be co-presented at New York
University by the Department of Cinema Studies, the Center for Religion
and Media, the Center for Media, Culture and History, and the Institute
for Tongzhi Studies. The program at NYU is coorganized by Zhang Zhen,
Angela Zito and Mai Kiang of New York University, and Michael Pingjie
Zhang and Catherine Jin of the REC Foundation, New York.