China, 2017, 27', Mandarin
Dir/Ed: Fang Lu
Ph: Arie Kishon
Camera: Deng Zoenie, Guo Qiuli, Zhong Ruohan
Music: Arie Kishon
Sound Recording: Dickid Yang
Producer: Sue Hui
Presented by Guangzhou Zaidi Culture & Art Co., Ltd.
Cast: Deng Zoenie , Guo Qiuli, Zhong Ruohan
Canton Novelty creates little miracles in our everyday lives. Ruohan, Lily and Zoe, three young women who are close friends, spend their summer vacation together in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. As they document their vacation with their cell phones, they discover that each one of them has a super-power. Empowered by cellphone cameras, they re-create and improve upon reality as they play with this great contemporary metropolis, which they subtly, subversively enhance with their amazing abilities for our pleasure, and theirs.
Self Portrait: Birth in 47KM
China, 2017, DCP, 102’, Mandarin
Dir/Ed/Camera: Zhang Mengqi
Zhang Mengqi makes documentaries that are both personal and universal; poetic and realistic. One of China’s foremost contemporary documentarians, she has been working on a series of what she calls ‘self portraits,’ part of the Folk Memory Project series, curated by Wu Wenguang. While these originated as oral histories of the experiences of rural residents of China, Zhang takes the series places both unexpected and revelatory. She has been returning to her native village called 47KM (located 47 kilometres from Suizhou, Hubei province), recording the memories of the old folks who still live there, and the children who will soon be leaving there.
But Zhang is no passive recorder. Each of her films is, at the same time, an intimate self portrait, an investigation of the village society Zhang Mengqi was born into, and a macrocosmic national portrait of Chinese farmers’ 20th and 21st century history of deprivation, resilience, struggle, and survival.
Chinese villages today are inhabited almost exclusively by very young people and very old people, and almost no one in between (the adults have left to work in the cities). Several time scales are interweaved in this film: an aged, stooped, but clearly indomitable grandmother, a survivor of the Great Famine of 1959, recalls the tough, extremely impoverished conditions in which she gave birth to eight children; a pregnant teenager (her granddaughter) describes her love life, and lays out the tough working conditions she experienced on the Foxconn production line. Young and old villagers work and work and sometimes play, and even dance a little, in a foreboding, ominously smoking landscape.
Nothing is beautified in this tough life, but Zhang’s images are striking, vividly expressive, thoroughly cinematic. This is no ‘archival’ or ‘sociological’ documentary: it’s a fully fledged film. She subtly yet exhilaratingly illuminates and deeply interrogates her subjects. Zhang films with her camera and with her body: she makes spirit, body, and vision as one, melding them into an utterly unique, powerful documentary film art. It’s a wonderful melding of the subjective and the objective, the analytical and the instinctive, the abstract and the embodied.