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From Bumming In Beijing To Dead Souls…Thirty Years Of Chinese Independent Documentary At Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival

YANO Kazuyuki Translator: QIU Ye


In this article, Yano Kazuyuki, representative of CINEMATRIX, the Tokyo office of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDFF), revisits the exhibition history of Chinese documentary in Yamagata. During the late 1980s and early 90s, directors like Tian Zhuangzhuang and Wu Wenguang came into the sight of a newfound Yamagata Festival, hungry for documentary films in Asia. Wu Wenguang was invited to show Bumming in Beijing in 1991 and took his experience back to China with him, initiating a groundswell of documentary filmmaking. More and more films have been screened and awarded in Yamagata since then, establishing a reciprocal relationship between filmmakers and festival. Yano also mentions that even though some of the awarded films during the early aughts cannot be offcially released in China, passionate filmmakers and audiences have managed to circulate the films within café screenings and independent festivals. In recent years, even those venues had to close down due to pressure from the administration; many filmmakers had to relocate and operate abroad. But Yano continues to believe in the ingenuity and perseverance of Chinese documentary auteurs, and their contributions to YIDFF.