Indie Filmmakers: China’s New Guerrillas

The New York Times interviews documentary filmmaker Zhao Dayong about his new movie Ghost Town and the state of documentary making in China today:

The Chinese government has decreed that all films must be approved by government censors before being distributed and screened, including in overseas film festivals.

Mr. Zhao, 39, said getting the approval of the censors was never a consideration. “It’s like asking to be raped,” he said this month in an interview here. “The government certainly has its own agenda. They want us to stop. But at the same time we know we’re doing something meaningful.”

This mixture of defiance and principle defines China’s nascent yet highly dynamic crop of independent filmmakers who pursue their art in apparent violation of the law.

For decades the Chinese government had nearly full control over all aspects of the film industry, from celluloid filmmaking technology to financing to distribution and screening. An underground filmmaking subculture emerged in China in the late 1980s, but it began to flourish only about a decade ago with the advent of inexpensive digital cameras and postproduction computer programs that helped put filmmaking further out of reach of the government authorities.

Watch a trailer for Ghost Town and listen to an interview with the movie’s producer, David Bandurski.

September 27, 2009 9:56 PM
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