Note: In response to Ou Ning’s invitation, this article was written in May. 2007 and published in the catalogue of Get It Louder exhibition he curated, as the introduction for Film Program.
Value of independent films derives from concrete contexts of a system. It offsets the whole national film and cultural institutions, as well as the mainstream products fashioned under these systems. Apart from temperate forms and tactful ideological modes, which one of these products isn’t unfulfilling, derivative, or vain? Independent film is no other than offering an outlet for the depressed film spirit in an era of censorship. It may not have a broader configuration, but retains more individuals’ integrity and courage to face today’s reality. Chasing after freedom and certain intensity, it in time transforms sharpness itself.
But those independent works sometimes give an impression of being weak, especially the feature ones in recent years. Between the feature film production and the system exists an even more delicate relationship. System means politics, commercialization, and strong film tradition (through pirate DVDs the production of the feature film has to face the whole film history and make an potential conversation with it.) Even a film this time were made outside the institutional system, the censorship is still there——if over the years our knowledge and experience about film observe these premises, then ridding of their influence would be difficult.
Moreover, for most of the filmmakers who choose independent approach it’s just a strategic choice. Sooner or later they will get into the system to work. In the present filmmaking environment, this institutionalized process has become a kind of system, and seems the only way. Particularly into the 21st century, it is operating with more rapid speed. For an auteur to make the space transition from underground to ground, often one film is enough.
It isn’t necessary to make “independent” a pose; what’s more important is whether that’s a real spirit or not. Having this kind of spirit indeed, where and what systems no longer matter. But those powerful and confident filmmakers often underestimate the effectiveness of the set of institutional disciplines. As for those who haven’t yet entered the system, maybe they start to utilize the similar discourses already——on the name of “independent” what were made are no more than imitations of those mainstream products, which the more they resemble, the sooner the filmmakers get incorporated. In addition, what the whole social evaluation system follows is actually a kind of conventional measure—— we have not fully realized yet the measure in fact comes from the mainstream experiences.
Consequently, the space for the imagination of feature independent film is narrow as a matter of fact. It needs more tough and fearless spirit to find one’s own way and discourse, and to resist all kinds of tangible hints or formless criteria:
In the present era, that’s market, that’s so-called film industry full of illusion, that’s the limits and requirements of ideology, that’s rigid cinematic aesthetics. How much courage and consciousness were contained in those independent works to be shown at the 2007 Get It Louder depends on different point of view of the audience. The two contrary extremes for me are Ma Wu Jia by Zhao Ye and Beihai Beast by Peng Lei, the former is the most precise and exquisite one, the latter the most unbridled. Between them like How Much Rice by Li Hongqi and Mid- afternoon Barks by Zhang Yuedong just go their own direction and Raised From Dust by Gan Xiao’er, the Weeds by Wang Liren ,Taking Father Home by Ying Liang go after some intensity in their respective narration.
In any case the completion of these works as individual discourses indicates a collective progress, and perhaps just residentially, they give an impression of going back to the literary tradition. Zhao Ye’s film was adapted from a novel. Zhang Yuedong and Li Hongqi maintain tight connection with some Nanjing poets. Ou Ning gave this remark to the WEEDS : “the film for the first time restored the 80’s poem memory”. Chinese cinema and literature had a long-time connection and the former took a great deal of advantages from the latter. But the pride and sometimes-excessive narcissism in literature should be attentive.
In addition to these local works, some latest short films and long-features from Malaysia and HongKong also will show in the film section of 07GIL. Malaysian cinema new wave, consisting mostly of Chinese-speaking works by Malaysian-Chinese directors, has been attracting widespread attention throughout the world, which we haven’t been aware yet at all. Chen Cuimei and Wu Mingjin, two young and creative cinema auteurs, each presents one long-feature film(both are their debuts) and two shorts at the exhibition, from which their growth as auteur can be seen and as Asian filmmakers they also make conversations with other filmmakers in presence. As the only female filmmaker among them, Chen Cuimei especially deserves more attention.