Last November, just before the opening day of the China Independent Film Festival (CIFF, 中國獨立影像年度展) in Nanjing, China, experimental filmmaker Tony Wu (吳俊輝) received a surprise phone call.
“They told us not to come because the whole thing was canceled,” says Wu, who had been invited to speak at a forum on experimental cinema at CIFF, one of China’s most important showcases for independent films.
The shutdown of CIFF was not an isolated incident, but part of the Chinese government’s broader crackdown on independent filmmaking. In March, the Yunnan Multi-Cultural Visual Festival (雲之南紀錄影像展), a leading platform for documentaries in southwest China, was similarly frustrated. Last year, the Beijing Independent Film Festival (北京獨立影像展) was dramatically shut down, and this year’s edition was considerably scaled back.
But the free-spirit torch is carried elsewhere.
Over the weekend, part of the CIFF’s canceled programs will be revived at the Experimental Media Art Festival in Taiwan (EX!T, 台灣國際實驗媒體藝術展), a three-day event focusing on experimental cinema, video and new media art.
“[The public] knows little about Taiwan’s experimental cinema, let alone about Chinese experiences…. To me, it is important to learn, absorb and try to understand others’ histories and experiences,” says Wu, EX!T founder and an assistant professor in Shih Hsin University’s Department of Radio, Television and Film.
CURATING WITH SEOUL
The idea of setting up a platform for avant-garde cinema and video art came to Wu in 2009 when he attended the first edition of an Asian forum organized by the annual EXiS — the Experimental Film and Video Art Festival in Seoul.
Participating artists and curators from different Asian regions explored the possibility of forming a network to enable artists in Asia to exchange ideas, share resources and collaborate on further projects.
WHAT: Experimental Media Art Festival in Taiwan 4: Shooting Left Asia — Nanjing (第四屆台灣國際實驗媒體藝術展: 在左邊的亞洲—南京)
WHEN: Today, tomorrow and Sunday
WHERE: Guling Street Avant-garde Theatre (牯嶺街小劇場), 2, Ln 5, Guling St, Taipei (台北市牯嶺街5巷2號)
TICKETS: NT$150 per screening, available at NTCH box office and online at www.artsticket.com
ON THE NET: www.glt.org.tw
The following year, Wu managed to set up the first edition of EX!T in Taipei, which comprised film screenings and forums joined by artists from South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Macau, where the touring Asian forum took place in 2011.
Last year, Chinese video artist and curator Cao Kai (曹愷) from CIFF, who Wu had first met in Seoul in 2009, decided to bring the event to Nanjing.
His brainchild, the Asian Experimental Film and Video Art Forum (EXIN, 亞洲實驗電影與錄像藝術論壇), was scheduled to offer 10 programs at last year’s canceled CIFF.
These 10 titles, which had been curated by several Chinese artists, will be available at Taipei’s Guling Street Avant-garde Theatre (牯嶺街小劇場) for public viewing today and over the weekend.
The lineup includes retrospectives on three contemporary artists in China including world-renowned avant-garde filmmaker Yang Fudong (楊福東), and Qiu Anxiong (邱黯雄), who is internationally noted for his experimental animated works such as The New Book of Mountains and Seas (新山海經).
Meanwhile, other programs focus on works of new media art, experimental animation and documentary cinema made by Chinese artists.
Adventurous cinephiles may want to check out the seven-hour long marathon screening of CIFF’s select feature works, which starts at midnight tomorrow.
Apart from screenings, China’s Qiu and Cao will join hands with Taiwanese artists and scholars including Jay Shih (石昌杰) and Guo Jau-lan (郭昭藍) as well as Malaysian artist Au Sow Yee to discuss various issues at three separate forums and discussion panels.