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Yumen

JP Sniadecki, Xu Ruotao and Huang Xiang

Release year: 2013

Run time: 65 mins

Film type: Documentary

Synopsis

Set in the quasi-ghost town of Yumen that once thrived with oil production in China's arid northwest, Yumen is a haunting, fragmented tale of hungry souls, restless youth, a wandering artist and a lonely woman, all searching for human connection and a collective past among the town's crumbling landscape. One part “ruin porn”, one part ghost story, and shot entirely on 16mm, the film brings together narrative gesture, performance art, and socialist realism into a crude and radiant collage that not only plays with convention and defies genre, but also pays homage to a disappearing life-world and a fading medium.

 

Director biography

JP Sniadecki is an anthropologist-filmmaker whose work includes El Mar La Mar (2017), The Iron Ministry (2014), Yumen (2013), People’s Park (2012), Foreign Parts (2010), and Demolition (2008). In collaboration with Zhu Rikun, he runs a 16mm film workshop in Songzhuang, Beijing, China. He is a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, and Associate Professor and the Director of the MFA program in Documentary Media at Northwestern University, USA.

Xu Ruotao, born in 1968 in Shenyang, China, is a visual artist and film director who lives and works in Songzhuang, a growing artist village on the outskirts of the Beijing municipality. Xu began his career in the creative community of Yuanmingyuan, China’s first independent artist village. He started making films in 2000 and has produced two features, Yumen (2013) and Rumination (2009).

Huang Xiang is an avant garde artist and filmmaker, born in 1974 in Guangdong province. He has made two feature films, Roast Chicken (2012) and Gossip (2014). He was one of three artists arrested in Songzhuang in 2011 for “causing a disturbance” by participating in a performance art piece there.