At beginning of each month, CFI posts a comprehensive list of Chinese film screenings in NYC. To help you better understand China through cinema, we include films that are made by Chinese filmmakers, set in China, or tell Chinese stories. Starting in November, the CFI film guide will also include screenings of Chinese-language films in Los Angeles. Here are some highlights you shouldn’t miss this month:New York screenings of films by acclaimed filmmaker Wang Bing, a documentary on the first and only Taiwanese player for the New York Yankees, 2nd Los Angeles Chinese Film Festival and the China Onscreen Biennial in LA.
Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story (Frank W Chen, 97 min, 2018)
The first and only Taiwanese player for the New York Yankees, Chien-Ming Wang held many titles: American League Wins Leader, World Series Champion, Olympian, Time 100 Most Influential, and The Pride of Taiwan. He had it all – until a 2008 injury forever altered the course of his career. Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story – named after the late sinking action on his signature pitch – follows the rise and fall of the international icon as he fights his way back into the Major Leagues through endless rehab programs and lengthy stints away from home, carrying the weight of the world on his battered shoulder. A poignant and intimate account of Wang’s steadfast quest, Late Life tells the story of a man who is unwilling to give up and unable to let go.
Project Gutenberg (Felix Chong, 130 min, 2018)
The Hong Kong police is hunting a counterfeiting gang led by a mastermind code-named ‘Painter’ (Chow Yun-fat). The gang possesses exceptional counterfeiting skills which makes it difficult to distinguish the authenticity of its counterfeit currency. The scope of their criminal activities extends globally and greatly attracts the attention of the police. In order to crack the true identity of ‘Painter’, the police recruits a painter named Lee Man (Aaron Kwok) to assist in solving the case.
Last Letter 你好，之华 (Shunji Iwai 岩井俊二，115mins, 2018)
Attending the reunion in lieu of her late elder sister, Zhihua (Zhou Xun 周迅) accidentally runs into Yin Chuan (Qin Hao 秦昊), on whom she had a crush in her youth. As old memories are evoked Zhihua slowly uncovers the intricate story of the trio.
FILM FESTIVALS & FILM SERIES
New York University Presents: Chinese Documentaries
The following screenings are free and open to the public.
Behemoth 悲兮魔兽 (Zhao Liang 赵亮, 90 min, 2015)
11/1 6 PM-8:30 PM; 19 University Place, Room 222, followed by a discussion
The Village of Fools 傻子的村子 (Zou Xueping 邹雪平, 80 min, 2014)
11/10 1:30 PM; Michelson Theater, 721 Broadway, 6th Floor
11/10 3:30 PM; Michelson Theater, 721 Broadway, 6th Floor
Dance with Thrid Grandma 和三奶奶跳舞 (Wen Hui 文慧, 15 min, 2016)
11/10 4:45 PM; Michelson Theater, 721 Broadway, 6th Floor. Director in person.
When Wen Hui visited her family’s hometown, a small village in Yunnan, on a project, she unexpectedly met her third grandmother. Spending time with her, Wen Hui listened to her stories of tragedy and hardships that she lived through the Great Famine and Cultural Revolution in China. Followed by a roundtable discussion with Wen Hui, Zou Xueping, Li Xinmin and Prof. Angela Zito (Anthropology, NYU), moderated by Prof. Zhen Zhang (Cinema Studies, NYU).
Election 黑社会 (Johnnie To 杜琪峰, 101 min, 2005)
11/3 2:00 PM; 476 5th Avenue (Entrance on 42nd Street)
Every two years the senior members of the Wo Shing Triad, the oldest gang in Hong Kong, elect an up-and-coming younger boss as their chairman. The two candidates they are voting on couldn’t be farther apart in personality; Lok (Simon Yam) is a levelheaded businessman and Big D (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) is a loud, obnoxious, violent criminal. When the voting does not go how some people would have liked, lines are divided and a gang war begins to form. Free Register
The mainstream Mainland film industry remains largely a boy’s club, but a few independent women directors work defiantly outside of the rigged system. Enter Huang Ji and Yang Lina, two stubbornly self-sufficient artists doing things their own way. Part of the Creative China Festival 2018. Supported by the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation
Egg and Stone 鸡蛋与石头 (Huang Ji 黄骥, 97 min, 2012)
11/3 5:30 PM.
A soul-baring autobiographical work drawing directly from director Huang’s own life, Egg and Stone is set in the rural Hunan province village of her youth, portraying the struggles of a 14-year-old girl, Honggui (Honggui Yao, leading an adept cast of nonprofessionals), living with an aunt and uncle, and left to come to terms with her blossoming sexual maturity without the benefit of parental guidance. Huang lovingly captures the textures of the world of her girlhood, while pulling no punches in portraying the routine misogyny and body shame of that same world. Q&A with the director following the screening.
Foolish Bird 笨鸟 (Huang Ji 黄骥, 118 min, 2017)
11/4 1:45 PM
Returning to the subject of China’s “left-behind children”—sent to live with relatives while their parents seek better paying work elsewhere—Huang crafts the intimate, troubling tale of Lynn (Honggui Yao, returning), a teenager trying to find her way in the dead-end Hunan province town where she lives with her grandparents, hemmed in on all sides by seemingly insurmountable social barriers, routine abuse of power, and the threat of sexual violence, her only refuge her friendship with another local girl, May (Fang Yao). Grimly grand, and as tough as the truth. Q&A with the director following the screening.
Longing For The Rain 春梦 (Yang Lina 杨荔钠, 95 min, 2013)
11/4 4:30 PM
Yang had to shoot her fiction feature debut in Hong Kong, knowing that Chinese censors wouldn’t approve the subject matter of her erotically charged drama. Comfortable housewife Fang Lei (Siyuan Zhao) has achieved the “Chinese Dream” spoken of by Xi Jinping, but something is missing—something she can’t qualify until the vision of a consummate lover appears to her in dreams, and her craving for his touch begins to take over her waking life. A new gloss on the Chinese ghost story, a taboo acknowledgment of spiritual starvation in the nouveau riche middle classes, and a scathing indictment of patriarchal society.
Old Men 老头 (Yang Lina 杨荔钠, 94 min, 1999)
11/4 8:15 PM
A quiet, observational film that embeds us among a community of senior citizens in a Beijing suburb—the most honored members of society according to the old Confucian system, but in modern China, increasingly marginalized and disposable. One of the first DV-shot nonfiction films to come from China, presaging the work of Wang Bing, and a prizewinner at Cinéma du Réel in 2000, making it a landmark in wider international recognition of independent Chinese documentary—a field in which women like Yang continue to fight for recognition. Screening introduced by Wang Bing.
One of the great documentarians working today and an intrepid chronicler of the human tribulations underlying modern China’s social and economic transformation, Wang Bing makes films that are epic in duration yet precise in scope. Wang himself will join us to discuss these films and his singular art. Galerie Chantal Crousel, Documentary Educational Resources
11/18 1:00 PM
New York Premiere · Extended introduction with Wang Bing. Wang Bing’s latest is a monumental work of testimony, largely comprised of interviews with survivors of the Jiabiangou and Mingshui re-education camps of the late 1950s.
West of the Tracks, Part 1: Rust 铁西区第一部分：工厂 (224 min, 2003)
11/16 7:00 PM
West of the Tracks, Part 2: Remnants 铁西区第二部分：艳粉街 (Wang Bing 王兵, 178 min, 2003)
11/17 3:00 PM
West of the Tracks, Part 3: Rails 铁西区第三部分：铁路 (Wang Bing 王兵, 132 min, 2003)
11/17 7:00 PM; Q&A with Wang Bing
15 Hours 15小时 (900 min, 2017)
11/17 2:00 PM; 11/18 2:00 PM
U.S. Premiere · Free and open to the public. Rigorous and hypnotic, 15 Hours marks Wang’s most radical meditation on the contemporary meaning of work and the state of labor conditions in present-day China.
A series of recent films from China’s sixth and seventh generations of filmmakers. Free admission; registration recommended. All films in Chinese with English subtitles.
Beauty Lives in Freedom (Wang Bing 王兵, 300 min, 2018)
11/18 4:00 PM. Free RSVP.
North American Premiere · Introduced By Wang Bing. Wang Bing presents his latest work, Beauty Lives in Freedom, following a week-long tour of his works in the United States. The film chronicles the Chinese artist, philosopher, and activist Gao Ertai’s lifelong pursuit of freedom. Gao was sent to a labor camp for re-education in the 1950s while a teacher in the western province of Gansu, and later became a political detainee in Sichuan following the June Fourth Tiananmen Incident. He successfully escaped to Hong Kong with his wife Pu Xiaoyu in 1992. The 80-year-old Gao and his wife currently live in Las Vegas. Courtesy Galerie Chantal Crousel
The films of Wang Bing look after those left behind by the much-publicized story of China’s 21st century prosperity—the migrant workers traveling to the big cities and the rural poor barely getting by—but they sternly discourage the touristic eye or casual, cheap “compassion.” Described by Andrew Chan in Film Comment as “A director intent on swallowing reality whole,” Wang generally works far from Beijing, a favorite locale being the remote Yunnan province, but his oeuvre gets at something central about modern China, seen straightforwardly and without sentiment by this radically original artist, steadfast in his vision and moral purpose. Supported by the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation
Three Sisters 三姊妹 (153 min, 2012)
11/17 1:00 PM
Where Bitter Money sees the migrant worker experience through the lens of those who travel for work, the sorrowful, piercing Three Sisters looks at those who remain to subsist in the old, worn-out villages—in this case a trio of siblings sustaining themselves as almost-orphans, with a particular focus on the eldest, ten-year-old Yingying, who shoulders a more than adult-sized burden of labor, and who, vulnerable yet seemingly indomitable in her endurance, emerges as one of the most haunting documentary subjects of recent memory.
‘Til Madness Do Us Part 疯爱 (227 min, 2013)
11/17 4:00 PM
Shot almost entirely within the confines of a mental institution in southwest China’s Yunnan province, this claustrophobic opus discovers almost medieval squalor in this modern bedlam, as well as implications that institutionalization is being used as a means to punish disfavored citizens and dissidents. One of Wang’s most difficult films in both form and subject and, for those who take up its challenge, one of his most richly rewarding, finding men and women clinging to the vestiges of humanity in barren, bleak climes. Screening followed by a Q&A with Wang Bing. [Also available on streaming site MUBI till 11/19]
Ta’ang 德昂 (148 min, 2016)
11/18 1:00 PM
There is a war on in Myanmar, and in the country’s harsh, rugged northern borderlands, members of the Ta’ang minority are fleeing the conflict. Wang’s camera travels along with these determined refugees, capturing the almost lullingly routine sound of artillery reverberating through the mountains, the quiet fortitude of his subjects, and the further trials they will face on arriving in China. “A masterpiece depicting dignity in the face of dehumanizing displacement.”—Travis Jeppesen, Artforum
Bitter Money 苦钱 (152 min, 2016)
11/18 4:00 PM
To understand contemporary China, caught in a Great Leap Forward from feudalism into postmodernity, you can ask for no better guide than Wang Bing, whose films render the lives of the working poor and internal migrant Chinese down to their bare, harsh physical facts. In Bitter Money, Wang follows two teenage cousins journeying together to the city of Huzhou, seeking a better life and discovering only endless labor, abusive interpersonal relationships, and exploitation without recourse. Harrowing and massively humane.
FengMing 和凤鸣 (186 min, 2007)
11/24 1:00 PM
An outlier film in Wang’s filmography, Fengming is carried forward not by action, but by the human voice—specifically, the voice of the eponymous old woman, who in recounting her life story, from her early ardent socialism through the persecution that she and her family endured during the so-called Anti-Rightist Movement of 1957 and later the Cultural Revolution, also narrates the history of modern China. “Has a moral authority similar to that of the Holocaust documentary Shoah.”—Richard Brody, The New Yorker
11/18 2:00 PM- 4:00 PM
Bai Yang (1920 – 1996) was a Chinese film and drama actress mainly active from the 1930s to the 1950s, during which she was one of the country’s most popular movie stars. She was considered the foremost of China’s “Four Great Actresses,” ahead of Qin Yi, Shu Xiuwen, and Zhang Ruifang. Her most famous films include Crossroads 十字街头 (1937), The Spring River Flows East 一江春水向东流 (1947), Eight Thousand Li of Cloud and Moon 八千里路云和月 (1947), and New Year’s Sacrifice (1955). At this lecture, Ms. Jiang Xiaozhen, Bai Yang’s daughter and also a film director herself, will discuss her mother’s life and career. She will illustrate her talk with photos and videos of her mother’s films. Free Register.
11/30 6:30 PM- 11:00 PM
The 3rd North America Chinese Directors Short Film Tour features 24 short films from Chinese directors who graduated from NYU, Columbia University, Chapman University, USC, NYFA, UCLA, and many more! This year’s selected films are beyond expectations, as quoted from some of our jurors -“Overall the quality of the films was very high- impressively high.” “This continues to be the most exciting collection of short films that I have had the honor of watching in my career.” Screenings followed by Q&A and reception, RSVP here.
11/01 – 11/04
For a full list of screenings & events, click here.
Of the festival line-up, nine films will be making their North American and/or Los Angeles Premiere. The feature film, E.T. Made in China, as well as stop-animation short, The Quintet of the Sunset, will be making their World Premiere. Themes of this year’s films are universally comprehensible yet distinctly Chinese, focusing primarily on the directors’ thoughts on the ever-changing Chinese society and global landscapes. For example, opening film Walking Past the Future, which had its world premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, follows a daughter of aging migrant workers, as their dreams of a better future crumble in an era of drastic change in China; E.T. Made in China looks at the modern Chinese rural reality in the presence of actual extraterrestrials; Speculatorfeatures the ride-sharing app, Uber and the foreign capital flowing into the Chinese market; People’s Republic of Desire explores the financial and personal conflicts behinds live internet streaming platforms; and Hanzi explores Asian culture and identity through a typographic lens.
For a full list of screenings & events, click here.
Highlight: The Widowed Witch 北⽅⼀⽚苍茫 (Cai Chengjie, 120 min, 2018)
11/4 7 PM Billy Wilder Theater
US Premiere. The winner of the Hivos Tiger Award at the 2018 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), Cai Chengjie’s picaresque first feature is a disenchanted, bitterly funny fairytale about a woman accused of witchcraft who decides to turn the curse to her advantage. Gorgeously filmed in the glassy winter light of China’s Hebei province, it begins almost literally with a bang, when the fireworks factory run by Erhao (Tian Tian) and her husband explodes, killing him and widowing her for the third time. After being violently revived by a shaman and raped by her uncle, Erhao decides enough is enough, and leaves town in a dilapidated camper van.
Blind Mountain (Li Yang, 227 min, 2007)
Young student Bai Xuemei is cheated and sold as a “wife” by human traffickers to a remote village. Raped and beaten, she leads the life of a sex slave and child-bearer with no hope of escape because of the villagers’ apathy and selfishness. Available through 11/28.