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Twenty titles in the ’’Digital Shadows: Last Generation Chinese Film’’ cycle at San Sebastian Festival


The cycle includes 18 features and 2 shorts by prominent contemporary Chinese filmmakers

This year, the 59th edition of San Sebastian Festival joins hands with the city’s San Telmo Museum to organise the cycle «Digital Shadows: Last Generation Chinese Film», an event also benefitting from the collaboration of the Filmoteca de Catalunya.

The exhibit comprises twenty films made in digital media from 2000-2010, a way of turning the spotlight on some of the most interesting Chinese moviemakers to have burst onto the scene in the last decade while giving us a look at how they’ve captured the changes underway in Chinese society thanks to independent films exploring myriad formats and narratives.

Bérénice Reynaud, specialized in Chinese Film and curator of the retrospective, will present the cycle. Directors Liu Jiayin and Zhu Wen will visit Donostia - San Sebastian.


A series of sketches on homosexual desire with which Cui Zi’en – professor at the Beijing Film Academy, novelist, essayist, defender of homosexual rights, agitator and enfant terrible of the underground – opened the door to a new era of gay Chinese film.

Jia Zhangke films Datong’s barren post-industrial landscape to portray the different ways a group of unsatisfied youngsters express their ‘disgruntlement’ with things around them: Bin Bin and his best friend, Xiao Ji drive their scooters aimlessly in a future with no hope. FIPRESCI Prize at the Singapore Festival.

- CAO TA MA DIANYING / FUCK CINEMA (2005), Wu Wenguang
A bitter exploration of the imbalance between those who hold the reigns of the film industry and the sempiternal misfits in a documentary/fiction merger from Wu Wenguang, one of the founders and spiritual leaders of the “New Chinese Documentary Movement”.

This mega Chinese box-office hit let off the starter’s gun for a new kind of comedy ‘Made in China’. Here we follow the ups and downs of an ex-cop turned head of security in a factory on the verge of bankruptcy who has to guard a valuable gem that everyone wants to get their hands on.

A powerful document on the havoc wreaked by the chaiqian (“demolition and relocation”) introduced by the government and companies hell-bent on revamping urban Beijing for the Olympic Games seen through the testimony of a restaurant-owner who refused to budge.

- LING YIBAN / THE OTHER HALF (2006), Ying Liang
An efficient – and often humorous – mixture of documentary and fiction, told in fractured and punctuated mode with a series of fascinating illustrations filmed in the context of an industrial accident in the Sichuan city of Zigong. Winner of awards at the Tokyo, Jeonju and Singapore festivals.

- XUE CHAN / LITTLE MOTH (2007), Peng Tao
Debutant Peng Tao adapted Bai Tianguang’s novel Xue Chan, and spent weeks in the mountainous area of Hubei province selecting the cast of non-professional actors to depict the lives of professional beggars, deprived of the right to vote and occupying the lowest rung on the social ladder.

- LAO AN / THE LOVE OF MR. AN (2007), Yang Lina
Yang Lina, an actress trained at the People’s Liberation Army Art Academy, ruminates on the romantic life of an 89 year-old man from Beijing with one great passion in life: ballroom dancing with his 50 year-old dance partner, Xiao Wei. Tracking Mr. An’s every movement with her camera, Yang Lina becomes his confidant, gradually revealing the true nature of the dancers’ emotional involvement and putting it to the test.

- ZHALAI NUR/ JALAINUR (2008), Zhao Ye
The Jalainur mine (“ocean-like lake” in Mongolian) has been open for a hundred years, but today the pit is virtually empty and the workers are faced with the prospect of being paid off. Second feature using real images from the director of animated films, Zhao Ye. FIPRESCI Prize at the Pusan Festival and New Talent Award at the Shanghai Festival.

This documentary/fiction hybrid with the ironic title, Perfect Life, brings an intimate portrayal of the female condition in China seen through two women: one uneducated from a small town in north-west China, and another divorced from a Hong Kong man. Garnered a prize at the Vancouver Film Festival.

- YISI ERBA / 1428 (2009), Du Haibin
On May 12th 2008 at 14:28, the Sichuan earthquake took the lives of 69,000 people and left another 15 million homeless. Du Haibin arrived in the epicentre of the catastrophe to lend a hand as a volunteer. Using borrowed filming equipment, he headed for Beichuan, the city worst hit by the seismic activity, where he shot this documentary. Best Documentary Award in the “Orizzonti” section of Venice Film Festival.

Along the lines of the old “city symphonies” – but with the added attraction of a complex soundtrack brought to us in several layers – this documentary feature by Huang Weikai is an original experiment in how to take urban textures to the screen. Huan collected over 1,000 hours of footage shot by a group of video enthusiasts in the streets of his native city, Guangzhou. Best Documentary Award at the Ann Arbor Film Festival.

- NIUPI ER / OXHIDE II (2009), Liu Jiayin
In 2004, at the age of 23 and while still studying at the Beijing Film Academy, Liu Jiayin caused surprise with Oxhide, a film shot with mini DV. Oxhide II is made along the same lines: Liu, her father and mother act in the movie, a fictional yet carefully planned film by one of the most original directors of her generation.

A film director wants to shoot a classic Tibetan opera; but, being a disappearing art, the challenge lies in finding actors still capable of singing their parts. A visual poem on the cultural identity of the ‘Amdowas’, Tibetans who have grown up in the People’s Republic of China. Grand Jury Prize at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

- JIABIANGOU / THE DITCH (2010), Wang Bing
An investigation into the economic difficulties and fate of the people labelled as “rightwingthinking” by the Chinese Communist Party, largely for having expressed their opinion during the “Hundred Flowers” period. First narrative movie from the prestigious documentary-maker Wang Bing.

- XUN HUAN ZUO LE / THE HIGH LIFE (2010), Zhao Dayong
A look at life among the dregs of society seen through the eyes of those who still dream of the high life. A film tracing tiny dramatic arches coming together to paint an anything but conventional portrait of Guangzhou city. FIPRESCI Prize and Silver Digital Award at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

Novelist Zhu Wen tells an amusing, surreal and ironic tale where East meets West… or not? Thomas, a painter, is travelling the plains of Inner Mongolia and Mao is the miserable “innkeeper” who provides him with lodging.

- HANJIA / WINTER VACATION (2010), Li Hongqi
The indolence of Inner Mongolia mixes with poetry of the absurd. It’s winter vacation time in a small, gloomy northern town where the children have nothing to keep them amused and the adults live in apathy. A film reminiscent of the dry humour and laconic dialogues of Jim Jarmusch, Aki Kaurismäki and Samuel Beckett. Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival.

- GONG GONG CHANG SUO / IN PUBLIC (2001), Jia Zhangke
Produced by the Jeonju International Film Festival, this documentary short – serving as inspiration for Unknown Pleasures – comprises 30 long takes shot over a period of 45 days, where we can see anonymous passers-by, travellers and workers at the railway in the little mining town of Datong. Grand Prix at the Marseilles International Documentary Film Festival.

- WEIWEN / CONDOLENCES (2009), Ying Liang
In 2004 Ying Liang witnessed a terrible bus accident that filled the newspaper headlines. It only took 48 hours to rehearse and shoot the film, a little monument to the dead and a tribute to the indescribable (and silent) sadness of the survivors trapped in a media circus.


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