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American Filmmakers in China, Part III

by Bart Weiss 13 Dec 2011 11:03 AM

Guest Blogger Bart Weiss writes about his trip to China for the American Documentary Showcase. This is his third post from the trip.


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

This morning there was a big Christmas brunch going on here. I had no idea that Christmas was so big here in Beijing, but it is all around. We didn’t have events until late, so we spent the afternoon at Factory 798, which is sort of of like New York’s SoHo but in the early days. There were lots of coffee shops and lots of art all over the place, including lots of sculpture. Some marginal (in a good way) and some with major cooperate support.

By far the most evocative piece was Big Band by Zhan Whang. It has five video projections (one on each wall plus the ceiling). Watch a short video of it here.  Each is showing its angle on this large rock being exploded. In the space are metallic sculpted rocks. In the next room was a doc on the making of it, and as the first doc I have seen here in China, it was really magnificent, insightful and well-produced. I would love to bring this to Dallas.  In the next room was an exhibition of photos and videos for Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasetthankul.
All and all very impressive.
After our excursion, it was time to go to the the documentary film festival called iDocs. When we got there, we got to meet with some of the directors who were showing work. One of them was Peter Wintonick, who made Manufacturing Consent, a doc about Noam Chomsky that I really like. Peter, a Canadian filmmaker, has been helpful in putting on this fest and was doing part of the intros for the opening ceremony. After a while, the founder and director gets introduced. It is mentioned that it has been hard running the festival for three years and money has been very tight. He says this might be the last year of this festival. Boy, I can relate to that.
After all the intros, they showed the first film, Britta Wauer’s, Heaven Underground. Tomorrow we have a panel on international documentary issues such as distribution. Should be great.