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American Filmmakers in China, Part I

by Bart Weiss 12 Dec 2011 3:24 PM

Guest blogger Bart Weiss writes about his experiences in China as part of the American Documentary Showcase.


Guest blogger Bart Weiss is the Artistic Director of VideoFest. He will be blogging from China during his trip for the American Documentary Showcase.

I am sitting in a hotel room in Beijing waiting for the beginning of my trip for the American Documentary Showcase. In the lat few years, I have traveled to Pakistan and Nigeria, showing and talking about independent American documentaries and showing the diversity in techniques and spirit of the American documentary. You can search Art&Seek for notes from those trips. On those trips I traveled with social issue documentary filmmakers Tricia Reagan, who made Autism the Musical, and Kim Snyder, who made Welcome to Shelbyville, a doc about immigration in a small town in Tennessee. This year I am traveling with Harrod Blank. If you are up on your documentary film history, you may have heard of his father, Les Blank, who made Always for Pleasure, Burden of Dreams and Werner Hertzog Eats His Shoe. Harrod has made two films about art cars, the latest one, Automorphosis, is the one we are traveling with. It is really fun – but not a social issue doc – so I am not sure how this will go, but I bet it will be fun.

The main part of the trip will be to participate in the IDOCs festival here. Harrod will show his film, and we will talk on a few panels. Aside from that we will be going all over town talking to all sorts of people. It should really be great.

We arrived in Beijing around 1 a.m. Saturday after a long, long flight. Harrod is very tall, and there was not much room to stretch out his legs. And neither of us got much sleep, but we got here OK.T here wasn’t much to see on the way in to town, but I did love the animated LED lights they have on the road to designate road work. (Check out my short video.)

So today is a rest day and Harrod and I will explore the town. Tonight we have our first screening at the Broadway cinematheque. It will be great to see how they respond to the art cars. More on that soon.

Harrod Blank