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Groundbreaking & uncensored Chinese films at NYC's best museums and cinemas. Aug 7 - Sept 13, 2015.
Watch with us. August 7 - Sept 13, 2015, in NYC.
Watch with us. August 7 - Sept 13, 2015, in NYC.
264 backers pledged $14,496 to help bring this project to life.

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Cinema on the Edge! Best of the Beijing Indie Film Festival

$14,496

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Here it is. Our website is up! www.cinemaontheedge.com

Check out the full schedule, list of venues, list of films, and statement from the directors! 

Almost there. Here we go! 

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After just one week, you got us to our goal! Wow. Thank you! We are bowled over by your support for the films & filmmakers, your belief in this cause, and your faith in us. We cannot thank you enough.

Since the Kickstarter launch, respected programmers from LA, SF, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, and more, have reached out and asked, can we bring Cinema on the Edge to their cities? So, we're adding new rewards AND a new stretch goal of an additional $5000 (see update #3 for details). Can you help us make this happen? We did it already - let's keep working together to bring independent Chinese films & filmmakers to NYC & beyond!

(All of the money that we raise will be spent exclusively to support the Cinema on the Edge screening series in New York City and soon-to-be-announced major cities around the US and Canada.)

What Is Cinema on the Edge? 

We are celebrating the vibrancy, resilience, creativity and courage of the Beijing Independent Film Festival (BIFF) by organizing the first ever "Cinema on the Edge" film series. 

The 2014 edition of BIFF was not allowed to happen. Organizers were detained, screenings rooms were barricaded, filmmakers and festival-goers were harassed and intimidated. With the full cooperation of BIFF, we plan to bring a version of their festival to New York City this August and September.

The films shown at BIFF consistently blow our minds - they inspire and challenge us. They've shaped us to be better filmmakers, critics, producers, distributors, curators, educators, even better human beings. Our hope is to introduce audiences to the films we love by showing them at some of NYC's best museums and cinemas. 

Films in the series include:

  • Artist Ai Wei Wei’s bold investigative documentary Ping’an Xueqing
  • The lushly photographed award-winning feature Emperor Visits the Hell by Li Luo
  • The unique musical documentary People’s Park by J.P. Sniadecki and Libbie Cohn
  • Bold works by a new generation of Chinese women filmmakers, including Yang Mingming (Female Directors) and Wen Hui (Listening to Third Grandmother’s Stories)
  • Eye-opening documentaries revealing China’s hidden past and present: Spark, Stratum I: The Visitors, Satiated Village and I Want To Be a People's Representative
  • Programs showcasing contemporary China’s most outstanding works of experimental and animated filmmaking

Who are We? 

We are producer/distributor Karin Chien, critic/curator Shelly Kraicer, and filmmaker/anthropologist J.P. Sniadecki. We met and became friends in Beijing, while studying, programming, distributing, writing about, co-producing, or co-directing Chinese independent film. We connected over our love of cinema. And we might not be friends without BIFF. J.P. and Karin connected while sharing a long cab ride to the artist village of Songzhuang where BIFF is held. Shelly and Karin bonded over meals while evading harassment by authorities trying to shut down screenings at BIFF.

Here is J.P. talking about how BIFF affected him: 

“My first time there, I felt I had found my tribe: filmmakers, cinephiles, artists, scholars, and students gathering together to dive into a week of screenings, discussions, dinners, parties, music performances and, inevitably, various encounters with the authorities. Yet BIFF remains a grassroots affair: everyone pitches in and interactions flow easily. Our series is trying to keep that ethos alive.”

Here is a picture of J.P. doing a Q&A at BIFF 2012, which screened several of his films in a special program.

Here's Karin, Shelly, and Shelly's partner Lisa meeting with Xu Tong, director of Cut Out The Eyes. We're in Trainspotting Cafe, a pioneering venue for independent film in Beijing. Their screenings were shut down too.

Combined, we have over 50 years of experience making and screening films. BIFF has played a significant role in shaping our professional destinies, and some of our work would not be possible without BIFF. For example, thanks in part to BIFF, Karin co-founded the only distribution company in North America dedicated to releasing independent cinema from mainland China. Also thanks in part to BIFF, Shelly has been a trailblazer bringing Chinese cinema to several Western film festivals, including Rotterdam, Dubai and Vancouver, and has been able to write extensively about Chinese independent cinema. And J.P started a screening series at Harvard to showcase Chinese independent cinema, as well as write his dissertation on Chinese documentary and direct several films in China, including People's Park and Yumen, both showing in this series.

This festival has changed our lives, its films have inspired us, and its community has embraced us. This series is a small way for us to support them in turn.

Why We Are Doing It

Independent films are not allowed to be screened publicly in China. These films are made without approval of the censors and cannot be seen in regular movie theaters. Independent film festivals offer a singular space in China for unauthorized filmmakers to meet with their audiences, and to sustain a concrete, vibrant, alternative Chinese filmmaking community. 

China's break-neck pace of change has created a class of independent filmmakers who are inventing radical new film languages. It is one of the most exciting places for independent cinema in the world.

Filming the experimental short film "I'm Not Not Not Chen Zhou"
Filming the experimental short film "I'm Not Not Not Chen Zhou"

It's not the same as being there, but here are a few photos to give you a sense of BIFF. Imagine the incredible camaraderie, tight sense of community, excitement around new work, nervous tension about authorities showing up unannounced and you'll have a sense of what it was like to attend BIFF. 

Screenings at BIFF are often packed, standing room only. Independent film festivals provide audiences with a rare, and now endangered, space to watch uncensored content in China.
Screenings at BIFF are often packed, standing room only. Independent film festivals provide audiences with a rare, and now endangered, space to watch uncensored content in China.
Opening Night at the Songzhuang Art Museum. Independent film in China is sustained in part by the patronage and resources of the fine arts communities.
Opening Night at the Songzhuang Art Museum. Independent film in China is sustained in part by the patronage and resources of the fine arts communities.
Q&A at festival offices. For the last few years, BIFF was forced to relocate film screenings to their offices. Authorities shut them out of the Songzhuang Art Museum. Fanhall Films was shut down. Nearby hotels also would not hold screenings.
Q&A at festival offices. For the last few years, BIFF was forced to relocate film screenings to their offices. Authorities shut them out of the Songzhuang Art Museum. Fanhall Films was shut down. Nearby hotels also would not hold screenings.

Since 2012, independent film festivals have been under siege. All have been confronted with government opposition and interference. 

All but one or two have ceased to exist.

A meat cleaver doubling as film clapper to represent DOChina, a documentary-centered festival in Beijing that was shutdown in 2011.
A meat cleaver doubling as film clapper to represent DOChina, a documentary-centered festival in Beijing that was shutdown in 2011.

All this may be hard to imagine in North America, where you can find film festivals every day of the year showcasing thousands of independent films.

Since 2004, the Beijing Independent Film Festival (BIFF) has been the most important venue for unauthorized films in China. Set in the artist village of Songzhuang, BIFF was a rare space where freedom of expression flourished. But in 2014, BIFF was forced to cancel its festival following aggressive police action and physical intimidation.

The films in BIFF 2014 were never shown. But they must be seen. With the full cooperation of BIFF, we are organizing a version of the festival in North America. We call the series: Cinema on the Edge: the Best of the Beijing Independent Film Festival 2012-2015.

How We Are Doing it

After BIFF was shut down in August 2014, our friend/colleague Kevin Lee, while discussing the situation with Karin, mused out loud, "I wish we could recreate the festival here somehow." A year later, we're making that happen. We called our friends and colleagues, those interested in showing risky and groundbreaking cinema. We asked if they wanted to premiere films that couldn't be screened in China. The bold programmers of Anthology Film Archives, Asia Society, Maysles Cinema, Museum of Chinese in America, and UnionDocs said YES.

We've scheduled 18 programs of enthralling, provocative, and brilliant films at 5 of NYC's best museums and cinemas. We can't wait for you to see them.

Poster for the striking experimental feature, FOUR WAYS TO DIE IN MY HOMETOWN
Poster for the striking experimental feature, FOUR WAYS TO DIE IN MY HOMETOWN

But wait. We still need your help!

What YOU CAN DO

This is a 100% volunteer effort. We need money to bring Chinese filmmakers to the screenings in NYC, and to publish a one-of-a-kind program booklet for the series. Without dialogue and discussing, the screenings are not complete. 

Your participation will go directly to these 2 much needed items: 

1. Travel for filmmakers and festival organizers to NYC. This is 80% of our budget. Flights, hotel, and ground transportation to NYC are not cheap! If you've attended a film festival in the past, you know that Q&As and filmmaker talks are what make the screenings special. If funded, we'll be able to fly directors in to attend their screenings. Creating dialogue between filmmakers and audience is a critical part of the festival experience, and one that these filmmakers are often denied in China.

2. Publishing a program booklet to accompany the screenings. We cannot bring every filmmaker to the U.S. A few aren't allowed to travel either. This booklet enables us to include their voices in Cinema on the Edge. We have original quotes from the filmmakers and original essays from scholars. The booklet will also include memorable images from the excitement, both onscreen and off, of the past few years of BIFF.

If you can contribute, keep in mind, not one penny of the funding will go towards paying us!

If you cannot contribute, you can help by getting the word out. The more times you share this link, the more folks will know about the courageous efforts of BIFF to create, and sustain, a truly independent cinema in China. 

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, ie nearly all Western social media, are banned in China. BIFF's website was shut down years ago. Help promote BIFF and Cinema on the Edge on your social networks with these hashtag: #WeWantBIFF and #CinemaontheEdge

Independent filmmakers in China are denied an audience. Let's bring an audience to these filmmakers, and celebrate the brilliancy and vibrancy of their work.

Risks and challenges

At this point, the risks and challenges are minimal. The films are already booked, the screening schedules are being printed, and the materials are being shipped or created.

The filmmaker guests whom we plan to invite have visas and are already traveling or living outside of China. The program booklet is being edited and designed, and will soon be ready to be printed.

While we are proud of the screenings, the real impact and intangible value of film festivals are the conversations, the connections, the future collaborations, the community that is borne from them. If you help us reach our goal, permit us to create that essential bridge of communication and exchange between filmmakers and audiences that activates cinema, makes it meaningful and alive.

Please help us make this a reality.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    A private list of our top 15 favorite Chinese independent films, recommended by the Cinema on the Edge programming team! Plus an enthusiastic, heartfelt, and truly grateful thank you on Twitter and Facebook!

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    A limited-run, official festival program booklet, signed by festival organizers and select filmmakers! The booklet will be filled with quotes direct from the filmmakers, original essays from renown scholars, descriptions of every film, bios on every filmmaker, and photos from behind the scenes and from the films.

    Plus enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    An exclusive online link to watch the documentary "PEOPLE'S PARK" by J.P. Sniadecki and Libbie Cohn (showing at Asia Society during Cinema on the Edge). This film is a 78-minute single-shot documentary filmed in an urban park in Chengdu, China. You will be provided with a link and password valid for a designated 48-hour period.

    Plus enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    One (1) DVD from the dGenerate Films collection of Icarus Films, the leading source of independent cinema from mainland China! Some of these films are not available yet on DVD, so this is a rare opportunity!

    Plus enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    One (1) ticket to any film screening of your choice in "Cinema on the Edge!" Plus:
    - exclusive link to "People's Park"
    - enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Beautiful & super cool poster of "The Iron Ministry" by J.P. Sniadecki. This is the official U.S. theatrical poster of J.P.'s award-winning film. Look for the image in our updates! And watch The Iron Ministry when it comes out in theaters -- August 21 at MoMA in NYC!

    Plus enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Very rare & cool poster of the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival. Look for an image coming soon in our updates! You cannot get this poster anywhere else!

    Plus enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Two (2) tickets to any film screening of your choice in "Cinema on the Edge"! Plus:
    - exclusive link to "People's Park"
    - an official signed program booklet
    - enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Awesome & rare poster of the 9th Beijing Independent Film Festival (2012). It's from the year electricity was cut during the Opening Night screening. Look for the "Tightrope" image in our updates!

    You cannot get this poster anywhere else! Plus enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    A 30-minute Skype consultation with your choice of Karin Chien, Shelly Kraicer, or J.P. Sniadecki. Ask us questions about directing, producing, curating, film festivals, or just talk to us about your day. We're happy to help or just listen!

    Plus enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Attend an EXCLUSIVE reception with filmmakers and festival organizers! You plus one (two invites total). Plus:
    - two (2) tickets to any screening
    - exclusive link to "People's Park"
    - an official signed program booklet
    - enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Choose ONE of these 3 awesome rewards:

    Film Fan Special: Ever want to watch a movie, then debate its merits, with a film critic? This reward gets you exactly that! Watch an arthouse film and get coffee afterwards with critic& curator Shelly Kraicer. Plus enthusiastic thank you on social media!

    Filmmaker Special: Want notes or feedback from a critically acclaimed filmmaker? Get In-person feedback on your screenplay, rough cut, or grant proposal from director J.P. Sniadecki. Plus enthusiastic thank you on social media!

    Producer Special: Need help on your project? You can get a one-on-one, in person consultation with producer & distributor Karin Chien. Ask for ideas on financing, distribution, sales strategy or get notes/feedback on your project. Plus enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    Film Lover's Choice: Get one (1) ALL ACCESS pass to "Cinema on the Edge." Watch any or all of the films -- your choice! Plus:
    - invite for two (2) to filmmaker reception
    - signed program booklet
    - exclusive link to "People's Park"
    - enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Filmmaker Bundle:
    - Your choice of a $500 award
    - Very rare & very cool poster from BIFF
    - Invite for two (2) to filmmaker reception
    - Two (2) tickets to any screening
    - Signed program booklet
    - Enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    Out-of-town Special:
    J.P. Sniadecki and Karin Chien will host a DINNER PARTY + SCREENING for you and up to 7 friends! Enjoy great conversation about art, film, travel. We provide the food and drink per your party's tastes. We'll also provide a film to screen from "Cinema on the Edge." A very special evening to remember.
    Plus:
    - Rare & cool poster from BIFF
    - A signed program booklet
    - Exclusive link to "People's Park"
    - Enthusiastic thank you on social media!

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Funding period

- (30 days)