Cinema on the Edge’s screenings in NYC of films from Beijing Independent Film Festivals of recent years may have ended this past Sunday, but starting a couple of days ago, seven essential films are being made available for free on online streaming cinematheque MUBI when you sign up for a 30-day free trial. A film will be “released” each day until September 23 and will be available for 30 days.
If you missed the screenings because of your schedule or because you’re not in New York City or simply want to watch the films again, this is your chance. During the trial period, you can also enjoy MUBI’s other films from incredible curated content aimed toward cinephiles.
The Cinema on the Edge films that will stream are:
- Yumen 《玉门》
- Female Directors 《女导演》
- The River of Life 《生命的河流》
- The Dossier 《档案》
- Cut Out the Eyes 《挖眼睛》
- Egg and the Stone 《鸡蛋和石头》
- People’s Park 《人民公园》
Click on the film name to jump to the respective description below. Trailers, links, and reviews are available for some films.
Directed by Huang Xiang, Xu Ruotao, and JP Sniadecki
2013, 65 min, 16mm-to-digital. In Mandarin Chinese and Gansu dialect with English subtitles.
Two Chinese avant-garde artists and an American experimental filmmaker have collaborated on a stunningly beautiful Chinese experimental-fiction-documentary that dazzlingly combines ghost stories and “ruin porn” to form a celluloid psycho-collage. Shot on 16mm film, it’s set in the largely abandoned oil drilling town of Yumen – a place with an ancient, poetic history in China’s western Gansu province – and takes us through trashed, desolate urban spaces abandoned by Chinese socialism. But the filmmakers bring these places alive with their cast of ghosts, artists, vagabond dancers, and singers. It’s a film chock full of fascinating things: massive oil pumps and sun-blasted vistas; nude performance art and impromptu flamenco; fuzzy bunny rabbits and snarling canines; groovy 70s Taiwan pop and contemporary Korean girl bands; socialist nostalgia and postmodern pastiche.
Female Directors 《女导演》
Directed by Yang Mingming
2012, 43 min, digital. In Mandarin with English subtitles.
Two brilliant young women, art school graduates with deliciously profane vocabularies and supreme confidence, talk sex, cinema, and power, as they wield their shared video camera like a scalpel. Yang Mingming’s superb debut is hilarious, moving, and subversive: is it documentary or fiction, or something new that violates both modes with gleeful abandon?
Review an interview with Yang Mingming from Time Out Beijing.
The River of Life 《生命的河流》
Directed by Yang Pingdao
2014, 101 min, digital. in Mandarin and Cantonese with English subtitles.
Yang Pingdao is one of China’s most exciting emerging filmmakers. His astonishingly creative camera eye brings unexpected beauty to his new feature length film. Using an innovative structure, based on the distinctive texture of family memory through space and time, Yang invents something poised delicately between fiction and documentary to capture crystallized moments in his family history, to recreate in cinematic form its emotional weight and variety, woven around the life and death of his grandmother, and the birth of his child. In order to combine extended family chronicle, implicit national history, and intimate soul-bearing autobiography, Yang employs gentle formal experimentation to invent new cinematic pathways. Opening film and prize winner of BIFF 2014.
Directed by Zhu Rikun
2014, 129 min. In Chinese with English subtitles.
Tsering Woeser, the subject of Chinese filmmaker Zhu Rikun’s extraordinary documentary, is a Tibetan writer now based in Beijing. Through her writing and online voice, she has become one of the most eloquent voices on Tibet. Zhu Rikun’s sharply designed, formally innovative documentary is completely in Woeser’s own voice: Zhu alternates formally photographed scenes of Woeser reading excerpts from her secret government “dossier” (which she has somehow gained access to) with scenes of her speaking in her own soft but powerful, eloquent, passionate voice. Woeser’s moving account of her political awakening and current activism makes for a powerful document of a Tibetan woman finding her voice and insisting on her freedom to use it.
The New York Times‘ Sinosphere interviewed Tsering Woeser.
Directed by Xu Tong
2014, 80 min, digital. In Chinese with English subtitles.
Er Housheng is a blind musician who travels Inner Mongolia with his lover/partner Liu Lanlan performing the saucy, sensationally bawdy form of musical duet comedy called er ren tai. Er’s female audiences are particularly enthralled with his combination of sensuality, Rabelaisian earthiness, and frankly socially subversive lyrics. Director Xu’s specialty is to train his piercingly observant documentary camera — intimate and complicit, rather than coldly objective — on unique Chinese characters like Er, using them to probe deep beneath the surface of China’s clash of rural traditions with its urbanizing contemporaneity. The result is, on one hand, an enthralling ethnographic showpiece; but it’s at its core a passionate and frenzied psycho-drama of lust, violence, and genius.
Sara Galvão praises the film in Critics Associated and The Georgia Straight says it’s a “fascinating look at a world you’d otherwise never see—to the chagrin, of course, of the Mongolian Tourism Board.”
Egg and the Stone 《鸡蛋和石头》
Directed by Huang Ji
2011, 98 min, digital. In Hunan dialect with English subtitles.
Winner of the 2012 International Film Festival Rotterdam’s Tiger Award, Huang Ji’s brave personal film is one of the most auspicious debuts in recent Chinese cinema. Set in her home village in rural Hunan province, Egg and Stone is a powerful autobiographical portrait of a 14-year-old girl’s attempts to come to terms with her emerging sexual maturity. Since her parents moved to the city to work, she has been forced to live with her uncle and aunt for seven years. Alone with her own inchoate fears and desires, she grapples with a terrifying world of sexual awakening and danger. Huang Ji’s visual sophistication, narrative fluency, and technical polish belie her youth. Cinematographer Ryuji Otsuka (also the film’s producer and editor) contributes beautifully crafted cinematic images, fearfully intimate, softly pulsing with light, saturated with complex emotional power.
Exclaim! says “Egg and Stone does outline an issue [of female relegation] astutely without resorting to maudlin modes of manipulation. And while doing so, it utilizes gorgeous photography and acutely thoughtful composition, adding formalist dimension to this feminine perspective.”
Toronto Film Scene says the film is essential viewing, praises it as “a visually captivating film, with shots that are bound to make a lasting impression”, and “will be sure to spark discussion”.
Directed by J.P. Sniadecki & Libbie Cohn
2012, 78 min, digital. In Sichuanese and Mandarin Chinese.
This is an experimental, structuralist documentary shot in People’s Park, Chengdu, Sichuan, in one single, bravura take lasting 75 minutes by two young American directors. Their camera captures the fullness of Chinese urban leisure life. As the camera pans side to side and glides relentlessly forward through the park, it catches hundreds of Chinese urbanites out for fun, relaxation, socializing, and a certain kind of freedom: eating, strolling, singing, practicing calligraphy, and watching each other. Watching becomes dancing, as the film slowly gathers an ecstatic, trance-like groove, building to a rapturous climax, as people, movement, music, image, and sound mix together: this is as close to pure pleasure as cinema gets.
Praise from Slant Magazine from The New York Times which focuses on the film’s camera technique.