Premiering in Your Inbox: China’s New Indie Doc Sensation

Filmmaker Jiang Nengjie spent eight years making his latest feature. Then, he messaged his fans to tell them how they could download it for free.

Jiang Nengjie communicates with a child during one of his reporting trips. Courtesy of Jiang

It’s not your typical viral hit. Self-directed, self-funded, and shot mostly on a simple camcorder, the film follows the lives of coal workers in rural Hunan, a central Chinese province.

But “Miners, the Horsekeeper, and Pneumoconiosis” has become an unexpected sensation among Chinese documentary fans after its director took a creative approach to publicizing the feature.

In late March, a small group of documentary enthusiasts on the popular review site Douban received direct messages from the filmmaker Jiang Nengjie. He sent them links to a file-sharing site where they could download his new movie for free.

The move proved to be a stroke of genius. Within days, thousands of people had watched “Miners, the Horsekeeper, and Pneumoconiosis,” given it a high rating, and shared the link to download it with their friends.

“The director follows you back and sends a private message explaining how to watch his film,” one shocked user posted on Douban. “What’s made our documentary makers do this?”

Giving away work for free appears natural to Jiang. Throughout his career, the 35-year-old has been an advocate for two things above all: standing up for marginalized communities and not compromising freedom of expression. Continue to read the full article here.


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.