Karin Chien on “What American Indies Can Learn From Their Chinese Counterparts”
I am dismayed at times how sometimes our local indie scene feels so repetitive and lacking creative ambition. We remake successful formulas, and only rarely break new ground.
I know I am guilty of this too. I wonder how we can break out of this cycle, and what are the forces that contribute to this sad phenomenon?
It was such pondering that led me to profess on twitter that I wanted to learn more of the global microbudget film scene, to see what others are doing, and what we all could learn from each other. Producer/distributor Karin Chien was among those that reached out to me, to share her knowledge and experience—and it does start to show us a real alternative.
Let me start by making a provocative statement – in my three years of distributing and working with Chinese independent filmmakers, I’ve experienced greater creative freedom than in ten years of producing independent film in the US.
For most of us, Chinese independent cinema is an unknown. A film like Zhang Yimou’s HERO, financed with Chinese state backing, about Chinese empire, and made by a party-line director, is sold here as arthouse fare, distributed by Miramax. Subtitles are enough to qualify a film as “independent cinema” in America.