Chongqing is possibly the world’slargest municipality by population (28 million) and one of thelargest by land (31,000 sq miles). In modern history it is best knownfor its position as the capital of the Kuomintang government ofChiang Kai-shek during the Sino-Japanese war 1937-1945, when it wasknown as Chungking. Modern Chongqing like many parts of China isexperiencing growth of staggering proportions. It is the majormanufacturing hub of south-west China and serves as the economiccentre of the upstream Yangtze area.Staged in a bustling mega-metropolis,by contrast the Chongqing Independent Film & Video Festival(CIFVF) is a modest event.
Begun in 2007, it is the only independentfilm festival in western China, and provides an important platformfor directors with an independent bend to screen their works. Thereis no official competition, and therefore the establishment of theNETPAC award (for best Chinese feature and short film) at CIFVF marksa significant internationalization of a Chinese film festival as wellas recognition for NETPAC in China.The fifth edition of CIFVF was heldfrom 20-26 November 2011. Although modest in scale and beset withoccasional technical and venue problems, it nevertheless won plauditsfor its passionate commitment and devotion, and above all for thecritical but enthusiastic reception of the films by a mainly youngaudience avowedly supportive of independent cinema. As festivalprogrammer Ying Liang declared (while ruminating on what CIFVF wouldbe like in ten years’ time), “…it will still be film festivalfor the grassroots, for the grassroots audience and with filmmakersfrom the grassroots.”The main programme comprised 10 featurefilms and 25 short films from China.
The main focus of the ancillarysection was films from Thailand, comprising a special ApichatpongWeerasethakul package mainly made up of his short films; the UruphongRaksasad’s acclaimed Agrarian Utopia; and diverse shorts byChaisiri Jiwarangsan, uruphong Raksasad, Pimpaka Towira, PhuttiphongAroonpheng, Wichanon Somumjarn and the upcoming Jakrawal Nilthamrong.Of the 10 China films in the mainprogramme, 9 were documentaries. Lest it be reckoned that this seemsan uneven act of programming skewed towards that genre, it must beremembered that CIFVF’s programming throughout its four years hasalways covered all genres: fiction, documentary, animation and theexperimental. But what is notable about this year’s documentariesis that at least three of them (Gas by Lin Xin; The ColdWinter by Zhen Kuo; and The Interceptor From My Hometownby Zhang Zanbo) were explicitly critical of authority.
That the screening of these films did not raise passionate reactions amongaudiences, rather they were followed by intelligent and level-headedQ & A sessions, is indicative of a knowing political maturity onthe part of young educated Chinese people.By contrast, the 25 short films in theprogramme covered all genres: fiction, documentary, animation andexperimental, and displayed to the fore the versatility of aspiringyoung directors. Two films that were particularly impressive wereZhao Yi’s On the Water, a depiction of the vicissitudes oflife through the metaphor of boats being paddled through the waters;and Ears Baby by Tian Di, a 12-year old 6thGradechild prodigy who has a contract with Art+ Shanghai Gallery to markethis art works to connoisseurs in Europe and America.A strong diversity of programmes alsocontributed to the appeal of the 5th CIFVF 2011. Itincluded a Talent Campus organized with the Hangzhou Asian FilmFestival; and a programme called “After Life”, comprising fivedocumentaries dealing with the effects of the devastating 2008Sichuan earthquake on people’s lives (Chongqing is located inSichuan province).
Then there was a collection of fivedocumentaries (from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau) presented under theaegis of the CIFA – the Chinese Independent Filmmaking Alliance, acollaboration between Hong Kong, Taiwan, Chongqing, Shenzhen andMacau initiated by the Hong Kong Independent Film Festival with theaim of promoting independent film screenings and cultural exchangeamong the five regions. This bold initiative by activists in HongKong reflects well on its pre-eminent position as the region whichenjoys the greatest freedom of expression in China. It is also aportent of the emergence of a major force in Asian independentcinema.
NETPAC Awards at the 5thChongqing Independent Film and Video FestivalFeature FilmOld Dog (Pema Tseden; 2010, 88min)Short FilmCourt Ladies (Shen Chaofang;2011, 37 min)Jury MembersMembersWong|Wong Tuck Cheong (Malaysia; Chairman)Roxane Tsui (Hong Kong)Magasa (China) __
Festival Report by Wong Tuck Cheong