FilmMark Rudio

Fearless documentaries from China

FilmMark Rudio

YBCA just announced what promises to be a fascinating series of screenings- Fearless: Chinese Independent Documentaries. Taking place April 3-21, some of the films scheduled were recently seen at NYC's MoMA and discussed here in the NY Times.

Here's the schedule:

Karamay, directed by Xu Win
Sun, Apr 3, 1pm
Known as the “12/8/94 incident,” a devastating fire broke out in the Karamay Friendship Theater in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, killing 323 people, 288 of whom were schoolchildren. After more than a decade of suppressed information, it is now known that the children perished because they were ordered to stay in their seats so that Communist party officials could leave first. Despite having escaped the fire unharmed, the government officials failed to call for help on time and unlock the alternative exits of the theater. This epic film offers an exhaustive study of not only the incident itself, but the profound grief of the parents and their furious, and dangerous, criticism of the government. “Any future book on documentary film history will have to mark a place of honor for Karamay… an astonishing achievement on every level.” - Variety (2010, 371 min, digital, presented with short intermission)

Tape, directed by Li Ning
April 7, 7pm
For five grueling years, Li Ning documents his struggle to achieve success as an avant-garde artist under the pressures of modern life in China. He is caught between two families: his wife, son and mother, whom he can barely support; and his enthusiastic but disorganized guerilla dance troupe. Li’s chaotic life becomes inseparable from the act of taping it, as if his experiences can only make sense on screen. Tape breaks with documentary conventions, utilizing a variety of approaches including personal confessions, an unstable chronology, experimental street video, even CGI. (2010, 168 min, digital)

Ghost Town, directed by Zhao Dayong
Sun, Apr 10, 2pm
A remote village in southwest China is haunted by traces of its cultural past while its residents piece together their existence. Tucked away in a rugged corner of Yunnan Province, Zhiziluo is a town barely clinging to life. With great intimacy, we encounter the remaining residents, including squatters, elderly preachers, and lovers facing harsh financial realities. Ghost Town brings audiences face to face with people left behind by China’s new economy. (2008, 169 min, digital)

1428, directed by Du Haibin
Thu, Apr 14, 7:30pm
This award-winning documentary of the earthquake that devastated China’s Sichuan province in 2008 explores how victims, citizens and government respond to a national tragedy. The Great Sichuan Earthquake took place at 14:28 on May 12, 2008, causing 70,000 deaths and 375,000 casualties. Days later, the filmmaker visited Sichuan to capture the devastation as well as the recovery effort. Survivors were reduced to salvaging destroyed pig farms in the mountains, selling scrap metal for pennies, and pillaging homes. Seven months later, as the nation celebrated Chinese New Year, Du returned to see how life had changed in the stricken villages. Sidestepping the highly controlled media tours, Du found scenes not seen on official TV, exposing the gap between the Party’s promises and the disaster victims’ reality. (2009, 117 min, digital)

Fortune Teller, directed by Xu Tong
Sun, Apr 17, 2pm
Xu Tong is one of the most controversial documentary filmmakers working in China today, who insists on telling the stories of people on the far margins of society. Raw and loosely structured, the film introduces us to Li Baicheng, a traditional Chinese fortune teller, and his wife Little Pearl, who is mentally and physically impaired. Li’s clients are largely local prostitutes. Police crackdowns on unlicensed workers threaten all of their livelihoods, and Li Baicheng and Little Pearl are forced into an uncertain future. (2010, 157 min, digital)

Disorder, directed by Huang Weikai
Thu, Apr 21, 7:30pm
This one-of-a-kind news documentary captures, with remarkable freedom, the anarchy, violence, and seething anxiety animating China’s major cities today. As urbanization in China advances at a breakneck pace, Chinese cities teeter on the brink of mayhem. One man dances in the middle of traffic while another tries to jump from a bridge before dozens of onlookers. Pigs run wild on a highway while dignitaries swim in a polluted river. These scenes, unshowable on China’s heavily controlled television networks, reflect an emerging underground media, one that can truly capture the ground-level upheaval of Chinese society. (2009, 58 min, digital)

All films will be shown at 701 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103 – YBCA Screening Room. Tickets are $8 regular; $6 students, seniors, teachers & YBCA members
Public Info: 415-978-2787 or

$8 regular; $6 students, seniors, teachers & YBCA members