JP Sniadecki, Xu Ruotao and Huang Xiang
Release year: 2013
Run time: 65 mins
Film type: Documentary
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.
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, a visual artist and a filmmaker, born in Shenyang in 1968, lives and works in Beijing. He began his career in the early 1990s by joining the then renowned avant-garde Yuanmingyuan Painter's Village. He has worked in a variety of media, including painting, video installations and graffiti films, as well as the 3D animated short film Beijing Changping Qiliqu Temporary Shelter (2008). His first experimental film, Rumination (2009), was nominated for the Dragon Tiger Awards at the 29th Vancouver Film Festival. In 2012, he collaborated with JP Sniadecki and Huang Xiang on the film Yumen, which was selected for the Berlinale and the Mexican Film Festival. In 2012 he also collaborated with Xue Li on the short film Broken Lines, which was selected for the 9th Beijing Independent Film Festival and the Asian Experimental Film and Video Art Forum. His other films include Expressionism (2013-2017), Ants Dynamics (2019), and Ink Cowboy (2022).
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.