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DV-Made China

DV-Made China: Digital Subjects and Social Transformations after Independent Film

Zhang Zhen
Angela Zito
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    DV-Made China
    Book Description:

    In 1990s post-Reform China, a growing number of people armed with video cameras poured out upon the Chinese landscape to both observe and contribute to the social changes then underway. This digital turn has given us a "DV China" that includes film and media communities across different social strata and disenfranchised groups, including ethnic and religious minorities and LGBTQ communities.DV-Made Chinatakes stock of these phenomena by surveying the social and cultural landscape of grassroots and alternative cinema practices.

    The volume shows how Chinese independent, amateur, and activist filmmakers energize the tension between old and new media, performance and representation, fiction and non-fiction, art and politics, China and the world. Essays by scholars in cinema and media studies, anthropology, history, Asian and Tibetan studies bring innovative interdisciplinary methodologies to critically expand upon existing scholarship on contemporary Chinese independent documentary. Their inquiries then extend to narrative feature, activist video, animation, and other digital hybrids. Portability facilitates forms of radicallyprivatefilm production and audience habits of small-screen consumption. Yet it also links up makers and consumers, curators and censors allowing for speedier circulation, more discussion, and quicker formations ofpublicpolitical and aesthetic discourses.

    DV-Made Chinaintroduces new frameworks in a Chinese setting that range from aesthetics to ethical activism, from digital shooting and editing techniques to the politics of film circulation in festivals and online. Politics, the authors argue, travels along paths of aesthetic excitement, and aesthetic choices, conversely, always bear ethical consequences. The films, their makers, their audiences and their distributional pathways all harbor implications for social change that are closely intertwined with the fate of media culture in a world that both contains and is influenced by China.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-5431-7
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Anthropology, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
    ZZ and AZ
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    The title of this volume is inspired by two seemingly unrelated sources—one Chinese, the other American. The first is a documentary called DVChina(2003), which was shown at the 2nd Reel China Documentary Biennial at New York University in 2004. On New Year’s Day 2002, Zheng Dasheng,¹ a young filmmaker from Shanghai, took his small crew and a Sony PD-150 camera to Jingdezhen, the “Porcelain Capital” of China in Jiangxi Province. They made a documentary about an amateur filmmaker (orDV ren, “DV person”—Zheng’s term) and his locally produced “TV drama series,” shot with his home video...

  5. PART ONE Ethical and Political Stakes

    • CHAPTER 1 Marking the Body: The Axiographics of the Visible Hidden Camera
      (pp. 29-56)

      One of the most exciting documentary scenes on the planet has appeared in the People’s Republic of China. One reason is that there is no lack of compelling subject matter. The scale of the problems and transformations facing this society are consonant with the vastness of the geographical space the filmmakers work within. Just as important is the stance these filmmakers take in the face of the historical world. It is a place where anything goes, and filmmakers clearly believe they can do anything. No holds barred. Nothing will hold them back, even if they possess only the most rudimentary...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Cruelty of the Social: Xianchang, Intersubjectivity, and Interobjectivity
      (pp. 57-75)

      At the closing awards ceremony for the 7th Annual DOChina Festival held in May 2010 in Songzhuang—a gentrified artists’ village at the far eastern edge of the Beijing municipality—young animator, poet, and filmmaker Xue Jianqiang was recognized with an honorable mention for his haunting documentaryMartian Syndrome. The award came with 2000 RMB, a Panasonic DV camera (the jury’s official comments noted that Xue lacked his own camcorder and had to borrow one to make his film), and the chance to speak before a gathering of who’s who in Chinese independent documentary filmmaking. He no sooner got his...

    • CHAPTER 3 Filming Power and the Powerless: Zhao Liang’s Crime and Punishment (2007) and Petition (2009)
      (pp. 76-96)
      JIE LI

      In the autumn of 1996, Zhao Liang, an aspiring filmmaker from Liaoning and recent graduate from the Lu Xun Arts Academy, was living in Beijing with other young artists and looking for a new documentary subject. One day, a photographer friend came over for a drink and suggested that he go take a look at “the spectacle of petitioners at South Railway Station” who came from all over China to complain about the abuses and injustices committed by their local authorities (Zhao 2009). The following day, Zhao Liang took a bicycle and rode over with a DV camera. For the...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Spectacular Crowd: Representing the Masses in DV Documentary
      (pp. 97-118)

      In their introduction to a collaborative study of crowds organized by the Stanford Humanities Lab in 2000, Jeffrey T. Schnapp and Matthew Tiews observe that while the first half of the twentieth century witnessed a rise of collective social action and various forms of mass assembly, the second half was a period of the decline of collective political formations and the replacement by virtual and media-based assemblies for physical crowds (Schnapp and Tiews 2006, xi). The postindustrial political economy in the West is “characterized by the coexistence of media aggregation and bodily disaggregation,” Schnapp and Tiews claim (xi). What is...

    • CHAPTER 5 DV-made Tibet: Domestic Videos, Elite Films, and the Work of Pema Tseden
      (pp. 119-162)

      In the three decades after 1980, major changes took place in the ways in which culture in Tibet was produced, transmitted, and consumed.¹ These changes, however, were not evidence of the radical transformation often claimed as the result of digitization, but were brought about by earlier forms of technological development. In terms of music and radio, it was the arrival of cheap cassette players and recorders in Tibet in the late 1980s that allowed Tibetans to choose for the first time when to listen and, within the limits allowed by the market and the government, what to listen to (Dhondup...

    • CHAPTER 6 Chinese Independent Cinema in the Age of “Digital Distribution”
      (pp. 163-184)
      DAN GAO

      My chapter looks at Chinese independent cinema as an institutionalizing enterprise. In other words, although many filmmakers keep emphasizing the individualistic quality of their agenda or the idiosyncrasy of their film works, independent films have developed things in common, such as certain thematics, addresses, formalistic styles, and modes of production. Their survival is also predicated more and more on shared infrastructures of film communities, distribution agents, and exhibition networks. Of course, this does not mean that the institution of Chinese independent cinema is settled and finalized; it isn’t like a breed of crops circled by impermeable ideological or physical fences....

  6. PART TWO Aesthetic and Activist Experiments

    • CHAPTER 7 Chinese Digital Shadows: Hybrid Forms, Bodily Archives, and Transnational Visions
      (pp. 187-214)

      In September 2010, in the picturesque streets and shell-shaped beaches of the city of San Sebastian in Spain, three elderly Chinese peasants (Yang Zhenjun, Liang Youzhong, and Liang Chunying) were walking about in their village clothes, their feet encased in identical pairs of black cloth shoes, gathering attention from the locals and the cosmopolitan visitors attending theFestival Internacional de Cine. They were flanked by a slim young man (first-time director Hao Jie) and two young women (actress Ye Lan and publicist Yan Na). Except for a brief stopover in Beijing, they had never ventured outside their village or seen...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Recalcitrance of Reality: Performances, Subjects, and Filmmakers in 24 City and Tape
      (pp. 215-236)
      QI WANG

      Since its beginning in the early 1990s, independent Chinese documentary has steadily built a reputation with its unflinching presentation of the underbelly of China’s economic boom and social sea changes. Individuals and groups whose experiences register the drastic costs of this process have become the most natural and common subject matter of independent documentaries. From the struggling artists who were among the first to quit state employment and go independent inBumming in Beijing(Wu Wenguang 1990) to the art-aspiring young migrants from the rural area inThe Other Bank(Jiang Yue 1995), from the homeless youngsters inAlong the...

    • CHAPTER 9 Crossing Cameras in China: Christian Aesthetics and Realized Fictions
      (pp. 237-259)

      The films of director Gan Xiao’er are the first narrative features to take up Chinese Christians in their everyday concerns. This chapter discusses a pair of his films, one a fiction feature, the other a documentary made about taking that feature on the road and showing it in churches. It is about filmmaking practice—and especially documentary—as social occasion, as the concatenation between people of self-reflective moments of cultural creativity and critique. By social occasion, I mean that Gan has documented in the second film the moments of self-conscious “participation” in the fiction feature and in the documentary itself....

    • CHAPTER 10 DV and the Animateur Cinema in China
      (pp. 260-288)

      Film scholarship on the movie-making, movie-viewing, and movie-circulating practices that have developed since the mid-1990s in China has appropriately emphasized the role played by the rise of digital video (DV) and its impact on independent and, in particular, documentary filmmaking.¹ In this chapter, I want to explore one line of development in DV independent production that has received much less attention—what I callanimateurcinema—which concerns short digital animations that are made by and/or circulated for online (or on-mobile) moviemakers/viewers.² Fan-originated digital animation oregaoanimation can also be found online, but my focus is onanimateurcinema...

    • CHAPTER 11 “To Whom Do Our Bodies Belong?” Being Queer in Chinese DV Documentary
      (pp. 289-315)

      Independent Chinese documentary has long been associated with the production of images of the subaltern. While such a focus is identifiable as far back as Duan Jinchuan’s first films on Tibet, early DV productions such as Wu Wenguang’sJianghu: Life on the Road(Jianghu2000), Yang Lina’sOld Men(Lao Tou1999), and Wang Jianwei’sLiving Elsewhere(Shenghuo zai Bie Chu1999) expanded the purview of independent documentary to incorporate the socially disenfranchised and the marginal in a multiplicity of different manifestations. Perhaps inevitably, sexual minorities were included. Ying Weiwei’sThe Box(Hezi2001) is usually cited as “the first...

    • CHAPTER 12 Toward a Digital Political Mimesis: Aesthetic of Affect and Activist Video
      (pp. 316-346)

      Social-politically oriented and activist filmmaking has emerged as an increasingly visible and integral part of the independent documentary in China since the popularization of portable DV cameras, editing software, and Internet-based social media in the first decade of the new century. Yet the thematic and formal attributes of these films as well as manners of their production and dissemination are as varied and complex as the contemporary Chinese social and political life that fuels the filmmakers’ sense of urgency, creative passion and action. Many of these films seem to fit well with the tradition of “committed documentary” (Waugh 1984) by...

  7. APPENDIX I: Chinese and Non-Chinese Filmography/Videography
    (pp. 347-364)
  8. APPENDIX II: Tibetan Filmography/Videography
    (pp. 365-370)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 371-374)
  10. Index
    (pp. 375-397)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 398-399)