China Villager Democracy Documentaries (2005) & 2009 My New Year (2009)

China Villager Democracy Documentaries (2005) & 2009 My New Year (2009)

Jian Yi - Yale World Fellow

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - 7:30pm to 9:00pm
Auditorium (Room 101), Henry R. Luce Hall See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 6511

Special Screening and Q&A with Project Coordinator and Director Jian Yi

China Villager Democracy Documentaries
(55 minutes - selected scenes only, 2005)

For the first time, public and political lives of Chinese villages are captured through the lens of the people who belong there. Villages can never be so real if filmed by an outsider.

This video is a collection of ten short documentary films, each approximately ten minutes in length. They are ten films made by ten amateur villager filmmakers (ranging in age from 24 to 59 at the time of filming) selected from around China. The ten filmmakers were the successful candidates selected among villagers who sent in their proposals for the competition. Each of them was awarded a DV camera (which “is worth something like at least an equivalent of the costs of raising 15 handsome pigs back home”) by the EU project. They were all eager to discover their home villages through the DV lens and to tell stories and be heard for the first time in their lives.

It is the first time that Chinese villagers have taken up a DV camera to shoot a documentary of their own on the changing rural public lives and the changing countryside dynamics in their home villages within the developing democratic system known as “village self-governance.” The interaction between the villagers in front of the DV camera and the one who is holding it from behind can never be the same if the film were to be shot by a “professional” from outside the village.

2009 My New Year
(58 minutes – selected scenes only, 2009)

Completed in March 2009, each of the five shorts, under the same title 2009 My New Year, runs for 10 minutes. The entire DVD runs for 58 minutes. Four were shot on DV-PAL, one on HDV. All dialogues have Chinese and English subtitles.
Brief bios and synopses of the five community filmmakers and their films:

XIAO Ailan, female, age 21, born and brought up in rural Ji’an, college graduate, had briefly worked in the prosperous coastal city of Shenzhen before coming back to town amid the economic crisis. First time digital video (DV) user. She helps her brother managing his small computer store in town. Went back to her home village during the New Year. The DV camera brings joy to life. When President Hu Jintao spent his New Year at this area, XIAO and her family chatted about the news while it was on TV. Ji’an was covered with snow on the New Year’s Day and the young folks were excited to see it. On their way to a friend’s wedding, XIAO and her girlfriends discussed their gifts.

SHAO Dayang, male, age 74, retired high school Chinese language teacher. First time DV user. Unfair treatment brought the retired teachers to the office of the education authorities. During the New Year, SHAO and his wife went to visit her brother and were confronted with the grave reality.

LI Yihong, male, age 17, born and brought up in the countryside, freshman of Jinggangshan University, first-time DV user. LI’s grandma passed away before the New Year and the family was occupied with the funeral. After that, LI’s cousin gave him a used DV camera as a gift and LI started his first shooting in his village soon based on his intuition. He also went to visit his former classmates who failed to go to college and were now back in the high school classroom cramming for the upcoming exams. The atmosphere in the dorm was still familiar.

XIAO Qiping, male, age 33, high school teacher, environmentalist, one of the founders of the project. XIAO used DV to document environment issues before. This is his first project documenting his own life. Last year, XIAO’s parents moved to live in the city from the outskirts, where they had raised pigs for decades. For the first time, the whole family celebrated their New Year together in the city and XIAO’s brother’s wedding was also about to take place.

JIAN Yi, male, age 33, born and brought up in Ji’an, left for 15 years and came back in 2008 to set up this project. JIAN documented his New Year as a member of the local community. JIAN’s dad’s mom passed away in mid-2008 and his other grandma passed away right before the New Year so the family had to stick together for the funeral and also for the reason that they were not supposed to visit others’ houses during the New Year due to the death of their family member. For the first time, the family had to celebrate a New Year without the grandmas. But, then, the last first generation member, Grandpa, also fell ill…

Jian Yi is an independent filmmaker, visual artist and writer currently running an IFCHINA Participatory Documentary Center in Ji’an City, Jiangxi, China. He is the producer and director of the award-winning narrative film BAMBOO SHOOTS and of the documentary SUPER, GIRLS!. Jian has worked as a filmmaker and senior art consultant for a number of European Union projects in China. In 2005-06, he partnered with premier documentary filmmaker Wu Wenguang to launch the China Villager Documentary Project. Jian’s photos on China’s village governance toured the nation’s seven provinces as well as the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels and the European Parliament in Strasburg. He is a Yale World Fellow (’09), Starr Foundation Fellowship grantee (’07-‘08) under the New York-based Asian Cultural Council, a Fellow (‘08-‘10) of the India-China Fellowship at the New School, NY, USA, and a Visiting Fellow (‘07) at Cambridge University, United Kingdom. Jian is one of the three Chinese national finalists selected by the British Council for its 2007 International Young Film Entrepreneur of the Year award.