Chris BERRY; Translator: FAN Xiang
The meaning of the idea of being ‘independent’ varies according to the context. To put it another way, ‘independent’ is defined according to what something is independent from. This short essay explains the definition of the term in the People’s Republic of China when it first appeared in the early 1990s; why there had been no independent cinema prior to the early 1990s; why it did appear then; and how it changed in the years that followed. These later changes include the proliferation of audiovisual material that might be understood as independent made possible by the availability of DV cameras and the internet; the pressure on successful and high profile independent directors to come into the mainstream system; and the suppression of independent cinema cultural activities in recent years. This suppression has continued to the point where ‘independent cinema’ has become a toxic brand for many in the film world in China and filmmakers often prefer to characterize the kinds of films once seen as ‘independent’ as ‘arthouse’.