Indie Films From a Land Short on Independence
As a group they give a new and truer meaning to the phrase “independent film.” In a country where all movies must obtain official approval to be exhibited commercially, the five Chinese directors whose work will be featured beginning on Friday in the Museum of Modern Art’s Documentary Fortnight are forced to operate in a peculiar gray zone.
“You have to have an awful lot of energy and passion to make films with no funding and no prospect of having them seen in public in your home country except under the radar and off the grid,” said Sally Berger, the curator of the festival, who visited China last fall.
“These are sophisticated, experimental filmmakers with a strong aesthetic sense, making films filled with a sense of urgency and change, even though they know they have a better chance of having their work seen abroad than at home.”
Few, if any, of the Chinese independent films that have begun appearing over the last decade or so are overtly political or dare to challenge the authority of the Communist Party directly. But their focus on issues like poverty, pollution, injustices, rapid urbanization and the individual’s struggle for autonomy gives many of them a subversive, questioning quality that alarms those in power and closes off the channels of official support and money.