Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ying Liang, James Cameron, The New Yorker

I wrote about Ying Liang's horrifying situation with the Chinese authorities a few days ago, the responses were surprising. Although many of our friends in the circle were already aware of the situation and had communicated with him on Facebook, other friends of mine were very nice to help spread the news around on Twitter and Facebook. This news was picked up by Richard Brody of The New Yorker.

Brody had written in the magazine about Ying Liang's previous films, which, to tell you the truth, I haven't really seen. (I'll rectify that soon), and in his blog post, Brody had many nice things to say about Ying Liang's films.

Specifically, Ying has a seemingly instinctive eye for incisive angles—there’s something amazingly relaxed and spontaneous about his cannily expressive compositions—as well as a naturally analytical grasp of revealing situations and moments. His stories are straightforward and simple, but they make contact with the most sensitive points of Chinese life, which he views with a quiet, stoic, almost ironic outrage—until his narratives burst forth with grand-scale catastrophes (filmed documentary-style, on scant budgets). His apocalyptic imagination has an inescapably sociopolitical and gloriously metaphorical dimension. I’ve written in the magazine about his first three features (“Taking Father Home,” “The Other Half,” and “Good Cats”), as well as his short film “Condolences” and, for that matter, about Ying himself, whom I met when he came to town in 2009.

But what really caught my eye in Brody's article was a James Cameron quote from a recent New York Times interview. (James Cameron was visiting Beijing for the release of Titanic 3D). It was a discussion about the Chinese censorship, where Cameron pointed out that censorship had became a lot less restrictive than before, and was probably moving to the right direction.

When asked whether he had talked to other filmmakers— his peers—about Chinese censorship?

This was Cameron's reply:

"No. I’m not interested in their reality. My reality is that I’ve made two films in the last 15 years that both have been resounding successes here, and this is an important market for me. And so I’m going to do what’s necessary to continue having this be an important market for my films. And I’m going to play by the rules that are internal to this market. Because you have to. You know, I can stomp my feet and hold my breath but I’m not going to change people’s minds that way. Now I do feel that everything is trending in the right direction right now, as I mentioned earlier."

It was an honest reply that showed very clearly where his interests lie. Yes, it's tricky to be political, and trickier to comment on the practices of a foreign culture. But it was a little discomforting to see the dismissal of the "reality" faced by Chinese filmmakers, artists and writers. Especially when this comes from someone you admired so much since you were a child (TERMINATOR 2 remains one of my all-time top ten action films). It does suck to be one of the "little guys".

Anyway, back to Ying Liang, yesterday, he had posted on Facebook a list of explanations in both English and Chinese regarding his own issue, just to clarify a few things.

1. WHEN NIGHT FALLS is a feature film, not a documentary, because there were performing and shooting plan in the film. Just one thing: the story really referents that case.

2. The copyright holder is Jeonju IFF, not me. Therefore the government discussed with the head of the festival, not with me, and they tried to use 10,000,000,000 won to buy. Of course, the festival refused this “business”. My film belongs to the part of Jeonju Digital Project, this year they invited Raya Martin, Vimukthi and me. The festival gave me about 280,000CNY as production fee.

3. My parents and my wife's parents were harassed by policemen at the early of this April. The last time, I got the info, the policemen from Police Department, National Security, and National Protection had visited my family in Shanghai at least seven times. Their main work were helping my parents to understand “my case”: such as the film exposed the eyesore of them, nobody could be allowed to touch the case about Yang Jia, and I would be arrested once I come back. The day before yesterday, my friend gave a call to my home; she said my mother’s voice and emotion sound ok, but telephone always discontinue, maybe phone was being eavesdropped.

4. When the Policemen from National Security visited me in HK, they didn't use true identity, just said they from the Foreign Office of Shanghai Government. Because of my families' troublesome, I thought I must see them. They told me my film didn’t meet the true, and violate somebody's emotion. Then they request me to cancel all screening plan, or re-edit the film.

My friend who is the human right lawyer told me the policemen's accusations are absurd. They should tell the people what the true situation is, and all lawyers who with the heart of justice are waiting for re-adjudging Yang Jia's case. Regarding somebody's emotion, in fact, that person should sue me, not police department. However, it wouldn't be a criminal case, and I shouldn't be arrested too.

5. I'm Hk now, because I accepted the invitation to be the Artist in Residence, from Mr. Shu Kei who is the dean of School of Film and Television, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Shu Kei also is the Artistic Producer of this film, some of students of the school attended in this film's production. Therefore the film was made by a team. I wish some person on FB who doesn't know more about these won't criticize HKAPA anymore. I have great friendship with students and colleagues here, and we just like a family.

6. Somebody always asks why I want to touch this “sensitive” story. This is my answer: to me, there is not any “sensitive” story, just the story what I interesting, I have feelings, and I want to tell. I never consider whether a story is political, with the topic of conversation, or social.



2.政府拿出100亿韩元(5千万人民币)向全州国际电影节购买版权,并非向我,那是因为版权归全州影展所有。我参与了全州的艺术项目:“三人三色”(Jeonju digital project),该项目已做十几年,每年邀请三位导演。今年有我,菲律宾的Raya Martin 和斯里兰卡的Vimukthi, 而出了制作费的全州影展当然是出品方。

3. 我和我太太的双方家人受骚扰,始于4月上旬。我最后一次了解到上海家人的情况时,我妈妈说公安、国保和国安已上门累计达七次,主要是给我父母分析我的“案情”,并指明我的片子揭了短,与杨佳有关的题材不能碰,我只要回国必被捕。前天,我有朋友去电我上海家里,据说我妈妈声音和情绪都正常,只是电话有中断现象,疑为被监听。




6. 总有人问我为什么碰这个“敏感”题材等等。我的回应是,对我来说,只存在感兴趣的、有体会的、想表达的题材,不存在“敏感”题材。是否政治性,具备话题性,或者社会性,是别人的事,并非一名作者需要考虑的本分。

And just a few moments ago, Ying Liang posted some words from Wang Jing Mei, the mother of Yang Jia during an interview with RFA (Radio Free Asia). The article is in Chinese only.




My translation:

Wang Jing Mei, mother of Yang Jia, said that the film (When Night Falls) documented her experiences and feelings, and it was up to her to decide whether they were factually accurate. Authorities had no rights to question the content of the film, let alone suppress it.

She said: "This is merely a documented reality. Why did the government treat him like this? Those were my personal experiences, not yours, who are they to say that it is right or wrong?"

She added that she was happy that what she endured were chronicled on this film, and hoped that she would be able to watch this film one day.

Yes. Who are they to dismiss her reality?

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