SCREENING: China Now | Selections from Cinema on the Edge

March 30, 2016 - April 10, 2016

Just in time for Chinese New Year, TYPOLOGY is proud to announce our support for CHINA NOW: Independent Visions, in the form of two film screenings.

Organized by Toronto-based curator and critic Shelly Kraicer, LA-based producer Karin Chien, and Chicago-based filmmaker JP Sniadecki, CHINA NOW is the touring arm of Cinema on the Edge, a program of 29 experimental films representing the best of Chinese independent film festivals from 2012-14. Launched to wide acclaim in New York last summer, Cinema on the Edge will debut in Toronto this March with a monthlong program of eight documentaries hosted by TIFF Cinematheque, under the series title The Crisis of the Real: New Chinese Independent Documentaries.

Following fast on their heels, TYPOLOGY will present our own selection from the original series: three groundbreaking animations and one experimental feature which comprise an eye- and ear-opening program of independent contemporary cinema from across China. Featuring filmmakers from Shenyang in the north to Guangzhou in the south, and Tibet in the west to Taiwan in the east, this selection bespeaks volumes on the vastness of space, time scales, and cultural difference experienced by these artists, who must find their voices in a country where censorship remains the order of the day.

The program

The Animations (3 films, approx 1 hour total screening time)

The Hunter and the Skeleton, 2012 | Directed by Bai Bin | 26 min
This splendid animation of an Eastern Tibetan folk tale is a visually inventive mash-up of traditional Tibetan thangka painting techniques and 80s video arcade game aesthetics. Rendered in Flash with a score that blends native Tibetan music and contemporary sounds, it is an audiovisual delight that goes much deeper — a riveting adventure story with an allegorical twist.

Family Reunion, 2012 | Directed by Chen Li-Hua | 18 min
A-mei, an indigenous Taiwanese woman working long hours in a fish processing plant, is called home for the Harvest Festival, but her boss refuses to let her go. Chen’s imaginatively drawn tale is artfully rendered in stop motion style — a moving family portrait with a quirky, storybook feel that has universal appeal.

Perfect Conjugal Bliss, 2014 | Directed by Zhong Su | 5.5 min
Surreal and playful, this lusciously rendered animation streams across the screen like a magical river of plenty or a fantastical living scroll emerging and transforming out of the wreckage of a virtual wasteland. Accumulating a hallucinatory visual force which recalls the explosive ending to Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point(notes/link below), Perfect Conjugal Bliss deeply satisfies the eyes even as it questions the origins and implications of humanity’s insatiable desires.

The Feature Film (approx 1 hour screening time)

Yumen, 2013 | Directed by Huang Xiang, JP Sniadecki, Xu Ruotao | 65 min
This collaboration between two Chinese avant-garde artists and an American experimental filmmaker is a visually stunning ficto-documentary aptly described by curator Shelly Kraicer as a celluloid psycho-collage. Shot on 16mm film, it’s set in the largely abandoned oil town of Yumen in China’s Gansu province near Mongolia. Moving between a barren yet starkly beautiful landscape and what’s left of a city torn by economic collapse and decay, signs of life (or afterlife?) in the form of nameless, wandering characters (ghosts?) perform impromptu, absurd, poignant, or poetic actions and interventions to the sounds of 70s Taiwan pop, contemporary Korean girl bands, and much more. A meditation on survival, this follow-up to Sniadecki’s 2012 film, People’s Park, is an altogether different take on life in contemporary China. Made with the support of Harvard University’s Sensory Ethnography Lab. 16mm-to-digital, in Mandarin Chinese and Gansu dialect with English subtitles.

Fusing documentary and staged scenes in a manner reminiscent of Godard from the 1970s onward, Yumen brings dignity and beauty to a place that lies in near ruins, and was the finest piece of cinematic portraiture I witnessed at this year’s Berlinale.
Travis Jeppesen, Artforum

When a film like this articulates its setting… a once oil-rich beacon of production in the northwest Gansu province that has since been nearly abandoned — one realizes how few films understand how to create a vivid sense of place…. The monstrous, pulsating rhythm of drilling, the contrastive contours of the landscape, and the lonely group of buildings contained therein. The sound design brings forth a new layer of varying ironies and heartbreak — the very fabric of a broken space.
Adam Cook, Mubi


Screening Dates / Times

There will be one evening screening and one daytime screening, each beginning with a brief introduction and closing with a short Q+A as follows:

Wednesday, March 30 from 7–9 pm (animations from 7–8, feature from 8–9 plus Q&A) or
Sunday, April 3 from 1–3 pm (animations from 1–2 plus kids’ Q&A, feature from 2–3)

Artscape Youngplace, Suite 101 (1st Floor theatre at Small World Music Center)
180 Shaw Street btw Dundas and Queen, Toronto, ON M6J 2W5
click for Google Map


About the Featured Filmmakers

I am empowered by my films to uncover the vibrant nature of the world.
— Bai Bin

Bai Bin (director, The Hunter and the Skeleton) was born in 1979 in the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of China’s Sichuan province, and is of Tibetan ethnicity (his Tibetan name is Gentsu Gyatso). Bai has a Master of Arts degree in painting from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, and since 2002 has participated in numerous exhibitions in China (Chengdu, Chongqing, Beijing, Hong Kong) and abroad (Kassel, Germany).

Chen Li-Hua (director, Family Reunion) is a member of the Taiwanese Amis indigenous people. Born in 1985, she graduated from the Visual Communication and Design department of DaYeh University in 2007, and has since been involved in creating independent animated films.

I have a physiological and psychological need to shoot independent films. The current atmosphere for creating art films and independent films in China is quite good, and there are a great number of possible topics. I don’t tell stories anymore, and hope that my works, like our lives, embody a great deal of trouble and anger. I don’t believe that the goal of my work is to attend large international film festivals. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve already given up the possibility of distribution and profit, at least for the moment.
— Xu Ruotao

Xu Ruotao (co-director, Yumen) is a visual artist and filmmaker, born in 1968 in Shenyang. He began his career at the famous pioneering independent creative community Yuanmingyuan around 1990. His first experimental feature, Rumination (2010), received a special mention at the 2010 Vancouver International Film Festival.

JP Sniadecki  (co-director, Yumen) is a filmmaker, anthropologist, and professor of documentary media at Northwestern University in Chicago. His films, which include Chaiqian (2008), Foreign Parts (with Verena Paravel, 2010), People’s Park (with Libbie Cohn, 2012), and The Iron Ministry (2014), have won many awards at festivals around the world. His work has been featured in the 2014 Whitney Biennial, the 2014 Shanghai Biennale, the UCCA in Beijing, the MoMA, the Guggenheim, the American Museum of Natural History, and a special section of the Busan International Film Festival 2012. He has written on Chinese independent cinema for Cinema Scope, Visual Anthropology Review, 电影作者 and DV-Made China (Hawaii University Press).

Resolve in political matters, no matter if it’s on the left, the centre, or the right, commands people’s respect. But business interests cloaked in the guise of ideology are engaged in suppressing BIFF. This act is an insult to the concept of “ideology”. It makes one suspicious of most of China’s so-called questions of political idealism, which are in fact merely boring, pragmatic economic disputes. The force that suppresses unofficial images is undergoing a transformation: from political to commercial. Will this process even cheapen the spirit of independence itself?
— Zhong Su

Zhong Su (director, Perfect Conjugal Bliss) is a native of Hangzhou, China. After graduating from the New Media department of the China Academy of Art and Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Zhong pursued a practice focused on oil painting, video and installation art, documentary film, and experimental theatre. Starting in 2011, he began to specialize in experimental video art, and has been featured in three solo exhibitions to date.

Huan Xiang (co-director, Yumen) is an avant garde artist and filmmaker, born in 1974 in Guangdong province. He has made two feature films, Roast Chicken (2012) and Gossip (2014). In 2011, Huang was one of three artists arrested for “causing a disturbance” by participating in a performance art piece at the Songzhuang art colony in Beijing. More information on Huang Xiang can be found on his website.


About the Organizers of China Now: Cinema on the Edge:

Karin Chien (producer, Cinema on the Edge) is a producer and distributor committed to championing independent voices from around the world. She has produced ten independent features including Stones in the Sun (2012), Circumstance (2011), The Exploding Girl (2009), and Robot Stories (2002). Among her productions are films that have premiered at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals, won over 100 festival awards, and received distribution in over 30 countries. Chien received the Independent Spirit Producer’s Award in 2010. She is the founder/president of dGenerate Films, the leading distributor of independent cinema from mainland China, and creator/director of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) Fellowship, a mentoring program for emerging Asian American media professionals. Currently based in Los Angeles, Chien teaches Producing at Loyola Marymount University and Temple University.

Karin Chien is also the producer of Untitled (Structures), 2012 by Leslie Hewitt in collaboration with cinematographer Bradford Young, currently on view as part of the exhibition Collective Stance at The Power Plant,through May 15.

Shelley Kraicer is a Canadian writer, critic, and film curator. Born in Toronto and educated at Yale University, he lived in Beijing for ten years, and has written film criticism in Cinema Scope, Positions, Cineaste, the Village Voice, and Screen International. Since 2007, he has been a programmer for the Vancouver International Film Festival, and has consulted for the Venice, Udine, Dubai, and Rotterdam International Film Festivals. Shelly Kraicer and  Karin Chien will be on hand to answer questions about Cinema on the Edge and the state of contemporary Chinese independent filmmaking after the evening screening on Wednesday, March 30th.

JP Sniadecki is a filmmaker and anthropologist who has lived and worked in China for over a decade. See above for details on his achievements. For more background information, see his website. JP Sniadecki‘s masterful 2012 film, People’s Park, is part of TIFF’s lineup of documentary films from CHINA NOW, The Crisis of the Real: New Chinese Independent Documentaries, on view at TIFF on March 15.

Cinema on the Edge organizers take Toronto!

Critical Distance Centre for Curators (CDCC) was founded in 2013 under our former name, TYPOLOGY. Established as a not-for-profit space devoted to curatorial and artistic experimentation, we devoted our first three years to providing opportunities for curators and artists to mount fully realized exhibitions within a critical framework. In 2016, we relaunched under our new name (CDCC) with a new Board of Directors and a commitment to meet the need, voiced by local and national curators, for a truly vital curatorial community—one that both supports emerging and underrepresented curators, and advances curatorial practice and inquiry. Screenings presented in support of China Now took place in 2016 under our former name, TYPOLOGY, and were curated by CDCC’s Founding Director, Shani K Parsons.


For those not up to speed on their Chinese geography, here is a handy map for you. Map source/date: 2009

Some background on the Antonioni/Zabriskie Point reference: Analysis by Donato Totaro at

Director’s quotes in bio section translated by Shelly Kraicer.

Image: Michelangelo Antonioni, Zabriskie Point (still from final scene), 1970, which features Pink Floyd’s “Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up” (a version of “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”), and Daria Halprin acting.