Showcasing some of the best new film and media art from China, the China Onscreen Biennial (COB) returns in an expanded second edition October 17 through November 14, 2014 with screenings and events in Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Hawaii. While Chinese audiences have driven the international growth of Hollywood blockbusters in recent years, little focus has been lent state-side to Chinese filmmaking itself – despite the rapidly changing ecology of Chinese film and media, arguably the world’s most dynamic today. The 2014 COB attempts to address that gap, bringing a slate of 15 Chinese features and 7 shorts to American audiences. The curation by an American team of film curators highlights a multiplicity of voices, from emerging to established, and the myriad connections between cinemas past and present.
Acclaimed Sixth Generation director Wang Xiaoshuai (Beijing Bicycle) opens the COB with his latest work Red Amnesia (2014) which debuted in the main competition at Venice. Director Wang and producer Liu Xuan will appear in person to present the West Coast Premiere of the film. Closing Film honors goes to Diao Yinan and his Berlinale Golden Bear winner, the chilly noir thriller Black Coal, Thin Ice (West Coast Premiere, 2014).
The Spectrum section of the COB presents an exciting selection of new features and shorts, including the World Premieres of Xu Tong’s documentary of a folk-singer with balls-out attitude in Inner Mongolia, Cut Out the Eyes (2014), and the alluringly fragmented Erdos Rider (2014) by the young director Wang Haolin.
Three first features receive their North American Premieres: The Continent (2014), celebrity blogger-author-racecar driver Han Han’s slacker road movie, a summer independent hit in China; Nezha (2014), Li Xiaofeng’s delicate tale of adolescent girl angst which heads to the COB from the Busan film festival’s Asian “New Currents” competition; and Zhou Hao’s The Night (2014), where an alley, a male hustler and nostalgic Mandarin pop map power, longing and desire. The last screens in a “queer nocturne” with another North American debut, the eloquently sans dialogue short I Love You, Boss (2014) by the award-winning Zhang Yuan (East Palace, West Palace). Making its US Premiere is Zhang Meng’s Uncle Victory (2014), winner of the Jury Award at the recent Shanghai film festival despite being controversially denied public screenings during the festival.
Stratum 1: The Visitors (2013), Cong Feng’s spellbinding performance-reflection on contemporary urban ruins in China, makes its West Coast bow as part of the COB Spectrum. The Golden Era (2014), the closing night pick of the Venice film festival and Hong Kong director Ann Hui’s portrait of the turbulent life and times of the May 4th woman writer Xiao Hong, will have its first Los Angeles screening. Documentarian Li Youjie chronicles his own bittersweet return to his home village in Alao’s Village (2013), also a local premiere.
Two animated shorts make their International debuts: the magnificent and surreally-inspired What Happened in Past Dragon Year (2014) by the multi-talented Sun Xun, and the Beijing opera-inspired Divergence (2013) co-directed by Shi Yi and Chen Hailu.
In the “Wild Women” program combining North American and Los Angeles Premieres, a trio of wickedly sassy shorts by young filmmakers – The Private Life of Fenfen (2013, d. Leslie Tai), The VaChina Monologues (2014, d. Fan Popo) and Female Directors (2012, d. Yang Mingming) – mock, probe and tweak Chinese gender politics. Fenfen’s Leslie Tai is expected to appear in person. The documentary-narrative mash-up of Barking (2013, West Coast Premiere) rounds out the Spectrum shorts, its roving camera ranging across a trash-dump world of migrants and stray dogs in the Beijing outskirts.
This year’s COB also features two auteur homages. The “Tribute to Wu Tianming” remembers the accomplished director who died this past March 4. As chief of the Xi’an Film Studio in the 1980s, Wu nurtured the groundbreaking cinema of the Chinese Fifth Generation. The COB Tribute revives two rarely screened landmark early works by Wu: the critically acclaimed The Old Well (1986), starring a young Zhang Yimou who did double-duty as a cinematographer on the film; and River Without Buoys (1983), Wu’s solo directorial debut that also posed one of the earliest filmic critiques of the Cultural Revolution. The COB is proud to present River in a 35mm print from the China Film Archive. The late director’s daughter Janet Wu Yanyan will introduce the October 18 screening of The Old Well.
With “Jiang Wen: Let the Movies Fly,” the COB salutes the actor-director best-known in the US for more recent work like his deliriously madcap Let the Bullets Fly (2010), but who has in fact blazed a path of maverick glory through nearly three decades of Chinese cinema. Both films featured in the homage are Jiang Wen’s personal picks of his own work as a director. In the Heat of the Sun (1994) adapts “hooligan” writer Wang Shuo’s irreverent tale of coming of age during the Cultural Revolution. L’immagine Ritrovata’s digital restoration of the film will screen in its North American Premiere. The Sun Also Rises (2007) stars an ensemble including the teenage Jaycee Chan, Hong Kong actor Anthony Wong, Joan Chen and Jiang himself in four story vignettes whose interconnected whimsy presages the prodigious genre hybridity of the later Jiang. Schedule permitting, Jiang Wen will attend the presentation of The Sun Also Rises on November 3.
Complementing the films will be art slideshows, created especially for the COB by four notable contemporary Chinese and China-based artists: the two-person collective Birdhead, Michael Cherney and Yan Xing. The slideshows will be projected in the COB theaters during the wait time before film screenings, and will explore China’s media convergence and flux through the double theme of 景 观| 观 景 or landscape | viewing. (Flipping the Chinese characters yields the double meaning.)
About the China Onscreen Biennial (COB)
A non-profit initiative of the UCLA Confucius Institute, the COB is a unique cross-continental collaboration among American cultural and educational institutions to promote US-China dialogue through the art of film.
The 2014 COB is presented by the UCLA Confucius Institute in partnership with:
AFI FEST presented by Audi, Film at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theatre), Pomona College, and UCLA Film & Television Archive in Los Angeles; Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC; and Hawaii International Film Festival presented by Halekulani in Hawaii.
The COB curatorial team includes the following film specialists who worked collaboratively in making the program selections:
Cheng-Sim Lim (Chief Curator), Bérénice Reynaud (Film Curatorial Advisor, Film at REDCAT), Shannon Kelley (UCLA Film & Television Archive), Paul Malcolm (UCLA Film & Television Archive), Tom Vick (Freer and Sackler Galleries), Jonathan Hall (Pomona College).
Related arts programming in the COB has been developed or curated by:
Susan Pertel Jain (Executive Director, UCLA Confucius Institute), Cheng-Sim Lim (Chief Curator), and Julia Grimes (Visual Art Curatorial Advisor).
An Advisory Board of film professionals and China experts have shared their expertise in shaping the 2014 COB:
Terence Chang (Producer), Joan Chen (Actress and Filmmaker), Chen Mei (Researcher, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), Robert Chi (Assoc. Professor, UCLA Dept. of Asian Languages and Cultures), Peter Loehr (CEO, Legendary East), Bérénice Reynaud (Film Festival Consultant and CalArts Faculty), Barbara Robinson (Independent Consultant), Robert Rosen (Dean Emeritus, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television), Lisa See (Author), Peter Sellars (Theater Director; Professor, UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures), Peter Shiao (CEO/Founder, Orb Media Group), Erik Siao (Independent Consultant), Sanjay Sood (Faculty Director, UCLA’s Managing Enterprises In Media, Entertainment, and Sports), T'ang Shu Shuen (Writer/Filmmaker), Michael Werner (Chairman, Fortissimo Films), Yan Yunxiang (Director, UCLA Center for Chinese Studies), Janet Yang (President, Janet Yang Productions).
The 2014 COB has been made possible with generous support from:
UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters, Stephen Lesser, Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland, Confucius Institute at George Mason University, Confucius Institute at George Washington University, Confucius Institute at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, SCAD Hong Kong, Asia Society Southern California.
yU+Co, Daniel Ho Creations, WeChat, Knoable, Joss Cuisine/Traditional.
For more information about the China Onscreen Biennial, visit: www.global.ucla.edu/cob.