On the occasion of the streaming release of two landmark Chinese independent films – Wen Hai and Zeng Jinyan’s Outcry and Whisper and Hu Bo‘s An Elephant Sitting Still – the good folks at Ovid asked me to share some thoughts. If you watch only two Chinese films this year, watch these two. I stand in awe of both films. Taken together, they form as deep, complex and varied a portrait as possible of contemporary China. Neither film should exist. Yet, they do. Beautifully. Miraculously. Brazenly. The producer and writer of Outcry and Whisper survived years of house arrest. The director o
As we enter the new year, it seems appropriate that I report on aspects of how OVID is doing. I also want to point you in the direction of two interesting articles which I think contextualize what OVID is all about. First, we’ve updated our searchable Master List of Films on OVID. We added about 30 titles over the past two months—we took a break over the holidays—so as of December 31, 2020, we are now at 982 titles. Of course we do continue to add more films every week. We have 18 titles lined up for January, and will be sharing each coming month’s schedule here on metafilm.
Jiayin Liu’s Oxhide (2005) is composed of 23 static shots, inside of a small, claustrophobic apartment in Beijing, China. Within each shot are only pieces of the apartment, along with only pieces of Liu, her mother and her father. She commits to a narrative refraction of an only child in a family of bag makers with a non-fictional rigor that eschews any kind of objective context for a Western spectator. Distinctions between the film’s events and Liu’s real life cannot be accounted for. Her presentation operates with biblical fervor, awash in every frame, are individual moments that are p
Mothers and daughters have incredibly complicated relationships but few have been so thoroughly dissected with a gaze simultaneously affectionate and unforgiving. The raw and beautiful nature of this fundamental relationship evolves and twists in Yang Mingming’s character-driven debut feature. Originally premiering in the prestigious Berlin Panorama in 2018, the ironically titled “Girls Always Happy” is directed, written and edited by Yang, who also stars.
The immersive, unforgiving documentaries of Wang Bing are often described in terms that would have their director as the Olympic marathoner of the contemporary cinema pantheon. Not only do his films appear monumental by virtue of their long running times, but Wang, even when his voice and image are effaced from his films, is no less present, evidently matching as best he can the intense physical demands of his subject’s environments, whether this be the toxic fumes of a smelting plant (the “Rust” section of West of the Tracks) or the everywhere-by-foot vertiginous slopes in Yunnan provin