Trends in Chinese Cinema, Part V

Trend Four: China Indies Go International

Caught between commercial cinema and “main melody” productions, Chinese independent cinema, represented by some of the leading voices of the sixth generation as well as some of the emerging post-sixth generation filmmakers, finds itself increasingly forced to confront two “enemies” in order to survive: politics and the market. Despite the fact that building China’s first art/independent cinema chain has been a recurring appeal, the Chinese exhibition market is dominated by commercial chains and there is little room for art/alternative films to be publicly screened or to have a longer showing at cinemas. Similarly, despite the talk that the authorities have been considering to implement a rating system, the censorship regime seems to have strengthened itself in recent years and censorship/self-censorship is a common practice for the government and individuals alike. Independent Chinese filmmakers must often face the hard choice of either compromising with the system or risking being banned from public showing. As a result of this “double squeezes”, independent filmmakers, almost following the steps of their predecessors (most of them have undergone transformations and become commercial filmmakers), have to eye overseas markets, particularly film festival venues. Names like Wang Xiaoshuai, Lou Ye, Jia Zhangke, Guan Hu, Guo Xiaolu, and Du Haibin often appear in domestic papers, but their works are usually first shown at international film festivals, and later on gain their second life in local pirated DVD markets. Banned or not banned, their works have not yet found a reliable audience base, and this is largely due to the overall unfriendly environment of China that cultivates the “make quick money” mentality and encourages political complicity.


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