WHAT was missed: The 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival (BIFF)
WHEN things went down: August 23rd (scheduled to run through August 31)
WHERE films were to be shown: Beijing’s Songzhuang artists’ district, at the Li Xianting Film Fund
HOW MANY films were denied an audience: 76. 76!!
Han Han, the poster child of 90s youth, is feeling his age. The 31-year-old calls his debut film effort, The Continent, a “road comedy,” but it has little in common with The Hangover, unless Han thought up the plot while suffering one.
Good day, mortals. Enjoy the weekend? Unless you were at the inaugural Expats in Chinese Film and TV Awards, not as much as these players.
Described by one excited attendee as “the stupidest, most Z-list thing ever… a fake award ceremony with fake red carpet,” the “expat Oscars” (as no one is calling it) was hosted by this nubile pair:
Called "the stupidest movie of the year" and "one of the most atrocious movies I have ever seen in my life" -- so bad that even Peter Travers, a man who loved King Kong, urged viewers to not watch it -- Transformers: Age of Extinction just might be the frontrunner for worst movie of the year. Funny thing: it's also the frontrunner for highest grossing movie of the year, after Chinese audiences just made this film the No. 1 movie in China of all time.
Editor’s note: Empires of the Deep, with a budget exceeding $100 million, was supposed to be China's Avatar. But as our correspondent, Dale Irons, found out on set, this extravagant 3-D epic was plagued from the beginning by incompetence and misfortune -- to say nothing of dangerous working conditions, a rampaging horse, and the tide. Five years after production began, there's little reason to believe this film will ever see a big-screen release.
This is Part 2 of Dale's two-part diary from the set of what might be China's most expensive -- and worst -- movie ever. --RFH
Editor’s note: Empires of the Deep is a much-delayed 3-D epic film that seems destined to disappear forever. Neither the film -- known rather generously as "China’s Avatar," starring Bond girl Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) -- nor the full story may ever be officially released. It’s now been five years -- an appropriate anniversary -- so, tired of waiting, we here publish the “production diaries” of a young Australian-British man, Dale Irons, who found himself back in 2009, for various reasons, on the set of allegedly the most expensive Chinese film ever made -- and possibly the worst. Big words? Read for yourself. --RFH
I’m back writing about Ai Weiwei, which isn’t what I particularly want to be doing, but as he seems to be the only Chinese artist known or cared about by a wider (Western) audience, here we are. This continued, and likely mutually beneficial, publicity for AWW has led to yet another documentary focusing on the trials and tribulations -- well, mostly the trials -- of him as he continues to work as an artist and professional dissident.
Matthew Niederhauser, who's putting finishing touches on a film called Kapital Creation that documents Beijing's development, recently uploaded a Vimeo featuring stunning aerial footage of this city. It's interesting how a simple rotation of perspective can completely change how we view a place -- and makes you realize the value of a window office atop a skyscraper (or a blimp). Watch the video; you're unlikely to find urban Beijing rendered more beautifully.
When a movie makes Steven Spielberg cry, you can be sure of one thing: it was written for the express purpose of making people cry. Please take a look at the trailer for Coming Home, the new film by Zhang Yimou starring his muse Gong Li and the distinguished Chen Daoming. Then consider how Sinosphere described one particular audience's reaction after a screening:
We publicized a Kickstarter on April 1 of a 10-minute dystopian sci-fi film set in Beijing by TED Talks director Jason Wishnow that was advertised as "starring" Ai Weiwei. It blew past its $33,000 goal in no time, probably thanks to the attention that Ai Weiwei -- China's most visible artist -- garners around the world. But now the Kickstarter has been removed and the preview for the movie, The Sandstorm, is only available on YouTube. What gives?
Brian Yang, who produced the 2012 documentary Linsanity (directed by Evan Jackson Leong), is in Beijing for the Beijing International Film Festival, which means now's a good time as any to remind everyone that you can watch his 88-minute doc for free on iQiyi (embedded above; just turn off your VPNs, China people).
The fourth Beijing International Film Festival opened on Wednesday, and it looks like it's already less boring than last year's. For that we have the Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone to thank, who on Thursday in a panel discussion spoke provocatively on Mao Zedong and urged the Chinese to confront their history. As The Hollywood Reporter reports:
There are some serious amateur filmmakers working for the United States's Federal Bureau of Investigation -- I can think of no other reason why Game of Pawns would exist: a nearly half-hour mini-movie that tells the story of Glenn Duffie Shriver, who was bribed by Chinese officials when he was studying in Shanghai to pass along sensitive information. Shriver made $70,000 before he was caught. He's now in the US serving out a four-year sentence in federal prison.
A recently produced short film from GVAcreative has gone viral, built on the idea that Hong Kong, since being "passed over" to China in 1997, is becoming less like what it was and that its past will eventually be gone. "The city is dying, just like a man who has lost a lot of blood,” says one of the characters in voice-over.
It's not often that a press release makes us perk up, but earlier today TimeOut publicized its list of 100 best films made in mainland China, and it's really impressive. As editor James Wilkinson writes:
Say what you want about his art and activism, but Ai Weiwei isn't boring, and certainly not afraid of trying new things. In his latest venture, he makes his acting debut as the star of a sci-fi short film called The Sand Storm, shot this past winter in Beijing during particularly smoggy days. Yes, the story is dystopic.
Posted just last week to Vimeo (password duihua), The Dialogue is a film by Wang Wo that looks at the Chinese government’s increasingly restrictive policies toward non-governmental contact between minority groups (specifically Tibetan and Uyghur) and Han Chinese. The film centers on an attempt by Chinese intellectuals and human rights lawyers to make contact with the Dalai Lama.
Beijingers, if you're looking for something to do over Spring Festival that doesn't involve elbowing fathers and sons inside crowded parks, check out the Crossroads, a non-profit / NGO community center in Gulou, which is screening two independent documentaries every day from now until February 6.
PBS has done all of us a favor by offering free streaming of the award-winning documentary Last Train Home on its website until February 11. You have to be located in the US, so fire up those VPNs and get watching.