For filmmakers, freedom is a verb. My thirty years of filmmaking have been accompanied by flowers and pitfalls. I fell into those pitfalls many times and managed to climb out. I have been practicing and advocating ‘First Person Film’ for over ten years now. The film notes I have written along the way discuss my own work, as well as films by others which I feel the urge to write about. The former is like looking at myself digging; the latter is one tree glancing at another tree.
Wu Wenguang’s Film Notes 16: A Legend – Watching the First Cut of Yu Shuang’s New Film The Old Sister of Huangpotan
I mentioned in my notes that “the film Huangpotan shows us an unimaginable secret, a legend called Huangpotan Village in Shaoxing, Jiangnan”. The word “legend” makes me feel compelled to write some notes. Tomorrow night, our dear Yu Shuang will show her Old Sister of Huangpotan (I love the title to death). I have the urge to write an article to welcome this beautiful moment.
My previous notes, “Footage Review Workshop”, were a review of the Folk Memory Project in 2020. These notes, “Editing Team”, are a second review of last year’s work. I can’t wait to review the “editing team”, our “major invention” this year! In our creative group of independent directors, we explore how to work and support one another more effectively (for example, with editing). The emergence of the “editing team” is really amazing!
One of the main activities of the Folk Memory Project group over 2020 was the “footage review” workshop. As I said before, this was the first time we had done “footage review” as a workshop. Thinking about it, maybe this was the first time ever in the world. It’s not that I’m keen to “create” and pursue “firsts”. The fact is, who in the world would do this: a group of people, one by one, watching, discussing, and analysing huge volumes of inconsequential footage once a week for five months.
Gao Ang participated in the workshop discussion after watching the third version of Jiaoxing Village in June last year. The difference between the third and first versions is that the first is about “land rotation”, that is, the relationship and changes between rural land ownership and management rights, a huge and complex current rural issue. As I understand it, this is a typical case of the “topic first” or “seizing your topic” documentary filmmaking method. I have an idea (or find an issue) and it fits (or is close to) my own understanding of and judgment about society, so I start to work on it (fieldwork, interview, data collection and then shooting, etc.).
Today is 11 January 2021. This is the eighth article of the new year. Writing three articles in eleven days is in line with my intentions and my expectations of myself. I live with a group of people who have things to write and want to interact with one another through writing. 360 articles a year isn’t enough. I believe that thought is a knife which needs to be sharpened. Otherwise, it becomes dull and rusty without being aware that it cannot cut anything. My experience is, the best way to keep sharp is by writing.
This article is about our ‘weekend screenings’, which start with Xiaobo’s Farewell My 19 this Friday [ed. note: 9 January 2021]. It’s worth noting (recording) our new activities for 2021.
There is an editing software called Premiere. Many people probably know it and use it. I am a long-time user of Premiere, starting with version 1.0 in 1988. That was probably the earliest version of Premiere. I now recall how I felt when I first used it. You could describe it as a kind of “ecstasy”, like I had finally come across a spring of water in the desert.
When image writing is carried out in the workshop, what does constitute the content?
My opinion has always been that creativity cannot be taught. However, you can learn and exchange ideas to create.
Workshops are a good way. Therefore, I have always called my teaching on image creation at universities, film festivals or art institutions “workshops” rather than “courses.”
In the “warm-up talk” for the Image Writing workshop, I talked about “direction” and “intention” and realised that this is a topic that cannot be overlooked. The practice and discussion of “image writing” carried out at a specific time and place is indicative. It’s rooted in a specific context. […] In other words, it’s not a general concept, it’s not generalisable, nor is it a universal truth. It is an action embodied by the Folk Memory Project. This is “pathway”.
Following the previous notes which focus on “intention”, I will talk about “direction”, that is, what kind of “unintended” works may grow out of “image writing”.
The “Image Production” workshop is one of the creative trainings conducted by the Folk Memory Project group of Caochangdi Workstation. A new round of workshops will start in January 2021, with the theme “Image Writing”.
“Shao Images” was established because “Shao Yuzhen’s way of filming determines the composition of the film”. Her so-called “editing” means simply putting original footage through editing software.
At the beginning of the film Self-Portrait with Three Women, a dancer holding a flashlight walks into the rehearsal hall. In the next scene, the camera captures the dancer’s face through her legs. She is saying: ‘This is my first dance work and a work related to myself. The name of the work is Self Portrait.’
I have never watched Sha Qing’s previous films. Lone Existence is the first one I watched. It belongs to the kind of bold work which does not conform to “characters”, “events” and “conflicts” in conventional documentaries. “Story” is completely unbounded and in a style of self-talking.
Caochangdi Workstation launched China Village Documentary Project in 2005. Ten villager filmmakers from nine provinces were selected from the applications and each completed a film about their villages on their own. By 2010, Shao Yuzhen, Jia Zhitan, Zhang Huancai, and Wang Wei have been shooting, and each of them has completed three feature films.
Around 2000, I returned to Kunming, bought a house outside the city, and took my mother to live there. The old house in the city has been vacant from then on. In the summer of 2007, my 88-year-old mother passed away. After taking care of my mother’s funeral, I returned to my hometown at No. 6 Shangyi Street. I went back to the old house to look for the proof of grave ownership of my father who died 18 years ago and to arrange joint tomb for my parents.