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The best of Chinese contemporary cinema will feature at Palmerston North’s first Chinese Film Festival.
The festival, organised by Massey University’s School of Humanities and the Palmerston North City Library, will screen five films over a fortnight from September 4-18.
Several of the films tell stories of how China’s rapid social and economic changes have impacted ordinary people, but others include a moody period drama about romantic melancholy set in Hong Kong, and a martial arts film.
Senior lecturer in Chinese Dr Rosemary Haddon says arts and films have flourished in China, after decades of rapid transformation and reform.
“China’s film movement exploded onto the international scene with the cultural thaw that followed the Cultural Revolution,” she says.
A “new wave” of cinema emerged in the 1980s after the first group – known as the Fifth Generation of Chinese Filmmakers – graduated from the Beijing Film Academy.
Influenced by western cinematography and their experience of rustication during the Cultural Revolution – where privileged youth were exiled to the countryside – their films centred on national and cultural identity, and the legacy of Maoism, and won many international accolades.
“Since then Chinese filmmaking has gone from strength to strength. The 1990s witnessed the return of the amateur filmmaker and edgy underground film movement known as the Sixth Generation,” Dr Haddon says. “The focus is contemporary urban life and the disorientation generated by rapid change.”
Audiences will get an insight into Chinese cinema, and see five of the most outstanding art-house, doco/indie films not usually seen in commercial cinemas, Dr Haddon says.
Ms Han Lixin, the third secretary (Culture Section) in the Chinese Embassy, will attend the opening of the festival on Tuesday night.
The Chinese Film Festival is the first for Massey and believed to be the first held in Manawatu. All films are in Chinese with English subtitles and will screen at the Palmerston North City Library. Entry is a gold coin donation.
The festival is the first in a Massey University Asian film series that will focus on a different country every year, with China in 2012 and Japan set for 2013.
Chinese Film Festival
4-18 September, Palmerston North City Library
Still Life by Jia Zhangke
Tuesday 4 September, 6.30pm introduction, 7pm screening
Haunting minimalist drama set in the real-life construction of the Three Gorges dam project. The underground film tells of two people in search of their spouses, their dislocation stemming as much from the flooding as from China’s cultural transformation. Won Venice Film Festival’s top award in 2006. (2006)
Suzhou River by Lou
Thursday 6 September, 7pm
Riveting tale of obsessive love reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The subject matter of contemporary China’s gritty urban experience is set against the backdrop of Shanghai’s Suzhou River, which is a reservoir of filth, chaos and poverty. (2000)
In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-Wai
Tuesday 11 September, 7pm
Moody period drama about romantic melancholy set in Hong Kong in 1962. A journalist rents a room in an apartment block on the same day as a secretary from a shipping company. Both nurse suspicions about their spouses’ fidelity and eventually acknowledge deep feelings for each other. (2000)
To Live by Zhang Yimou
Thursday 13 September, 7pm
An epic account of the tumultuous events of China’s past half-century. Fugui and Jiazhen endure the tragic disruptions as their personal fortunes move from wealthy landownership to the status of peasant. The goal is simply “to live” a normal life without torment. (1994)
Hero by Zhang Yimou
Tuesday 18 September, 7pm
A wuxia (martial arts) film based on the assassination attempt by Jing Ke of the King of Qin in 227 BC. The film dazzles through the profusion of spectacles painted in pure colour and photographed as dream poetry. (2002)