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Bumming in Rotterdam: Historical interactions between Chinese Independent Cinema and International Film Festival Rotterdam in the 1990s

Mitchell van VUREN


Revisiting the period when international film festivals gradually started selecting the first Chinese independent films, this paper provides a historical overview of the scarcely documented interactions between the Chinese independent cinema and the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR). As one of the first places where these films were shown in Europe in the 1990s, the Dutch festival has attempted to support this form of independent cinema through several institutionalised strategies. The paper classifies and describes these supportive strategies on the basis of archival research and in-depth interviews with (former) festival employees in order to understand how and why IFFR promoted Chinese independent cinema inside the international film festival network. Additionally, the significant impact of these strategies on the career paths of several prominent film directors are discussed, including Zhang Yuan, Wang Xiaoshuai, He Jianjun, and Wang Bing. By reflecting on the transnational production and distribution processes of Chinese independent films, the paper aims to conceptualise how the interactions between various Chinese independent filmmakers and film professionals, affiliated with IFFR and other festivals, have contributed to the constitution of an international community around Chinese independent cinema during its formative years.