Flourishing Chinese Cinema Diversity and New Blood
2016 starts well for Chinese-language cinema, burgeoning with an impressive range of subject matters and visual style and full of surprises from new filmmakers.
Moving away from the self-exoticism for which the fifth generation of Chinese filmmakers have often been criticised, Chinese-language cinema prospers with fresh perspectives, new discovery, and creative means of expression, as we see in this year's Berlinale selection across categories. It is a cinema which reflects the Chinese-speaking regions in their many facets and without disguise.
The only Chinese presence in the competition category this year is Yang Chao's (杨超) Crosscurrent (长江图). Yang Chao, whose film Passages (旅程) was awarded the Golden Palm at Cannes in 2004, presents his magical-realist film and a love story in a ferry sailing along the Yangzi River. The Berlinale Forum, aka the International Forum of Young Cinema, showcases Midi Z's (赵德胤) City of Jade (翡翠之城), Wang Bing's (王兵) Ta'ang (德昂), Zhang Hanyi's (张撼依) Life after Life (枝繁叶茂) produced by Jia Zhangke (贾樟柯), and Jonny Ma's Old Stone (老石). Participants in the Panorama, a Berlinale section which defines its mission as building bridges, include Dog Days (三伏天) by the American director Jordan Schiele which tells the dramatic story of a stolen baby in Changsha, and My Land (吾土) by Fan Jian (范俭) depicting the impact of gentrification on vegetable farmers. Unveiling a rarely discussed issue, Inside the Chinese Closet made by the young Italian director Sophia Luvarà touches upon marriages of convenience between gay men and lesbian women in Shanghai for the sake of keeping the family's “face” and social conventions. Wayne Wang, famous for his film Joy Luck Club, presents the Japanese production While the Women are Sleeping starring Takeshi Kitano. In Generation, a section dedicated to children and young people, there is Wang Yichun's (王一淳) What's in the Darkness (黑处有什么) which cleverly portrays the small town plagued with serial crime through a teenager girl's observation in the 90s. Finally, the master of Taiwanese cinema Hou Hsiao-hsien takes part in this year's Berlinale through the restored Daughter of the Nile in the Classics section.
Spanning from Shanghai to Yunnan, from Yangzi River to Burma, from historic to contemporary, and from iconic figures to new filmmakers, Chinese-language cinema of this year is dynamic and all-encompassing. It features multinational coproduction, audacious themes, lots of humanity, and a strong desire for artistic expression. In comparison to last year when Berlin was graced with the presence of big stars such as Zhou Yun (周韵), this year might be less glamorous - but definitely more cinematic.