Arts and Culture
Having emerged in post-Tian’anmen China, independent documentary and fictional filmmaking in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) grew out of the relatively liberalized socio-cultural terrain of the 1980s and intersected with then flourishing underground cultural genres and contemporary art.
The new millennium has witnessed how the popularization of Digital Video cameras, facilitated by ever-evolving digital technologies and platforms, is drastically transforming the aesthetics, social engagement and industrial layout of independent cinema. Meanwhile, ‘Chinese indie’ is increasingly channeling a wider spectrum of diversified and professionalized privately-invested (co)productions that not only circulate on global festivals, but are also screened at domestic theaters. Nevertheless, the first decade of the 2000s’ also saw the best and the worst time for independent film festivals and similar public events in China, many of which were closed down under the pressure from the authorities.
With a line-up of eight observers and participants of Chinese independent film culture from interrelated fields such as film and media studies, historical sociology, intellectual history and gender studies, this roundtable seeks to review, rethink and interrogate ‘Chinese independent cinema’ not only in terms of an assemblage of discourses, aesthetic styles, production modes and political agendas. We also try to understand the network(ing) of independent cinema in relation to local, regional, and global socio-cultural dynamics.
Looking back at the 30 years of Chinese independent cinema, this roundtable is meant as a platform for the panelists and audiences to experiment with various entry points and critical interventions to grasp the ‘Chinese indie’ in heterogeneous terms. Issues we set out to pursue include, but are not limited to:
• How the historiography and genealogy of independent cinema could be reconsidered and realigned revolving around issues such as auteurship, aesthetics, ethics, social engagement/activism, spectatorship, technologies and so forth;
• How to approach Chinese indie regarding its local, national and transnational/translocal connections in terms of production, exhibition (e.g., vis-à-vis domestic independent festivals and the global film festival network), and circulation (web-based platforms and archivist efforts);
• How to grasp independent cinema from the perspectives of gender, sexual and ethnic identities (e.g., LGBTQ/tongzhi activism; emergent filmmakers of ethnic minority backgrounds; exhibitions and screenings related to identity and activism);
• ethical/aesthetic issues in Chinese independent documentary;
• the futures of Chinese independent cinema.