About this project
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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