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Content

China


China



NA CHINA

By Marie Voignier

Jackie, Julie and Shanny, like thousands of young women and men from the African continent, have traveled to Guangzhou in China, hoping to make a fortune there. Struggling in the globalized Chinese economy, they try to start or to improve their business in relation withtheir home countries. Piles of Nike sneakers, Vuitton handbags by parcels of 100, Gucci shirtsin pallets … every day, these small or big investors, beginners or experienced, buy, pack andship tons of goods which are stacked up in containers bound for Douala, Lagosor Mombasa


DVD / 2020 / 70 minutes

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OUTCRY AND WHISPER

By WEN Hai and ZENG Jinyan
Animation directed by Trish McAdam

A performance artist approaches a dais with a quiet formality, then proceeds to slowly and deliberately slice a series of cuts into her face with a razor. A doctoral student/filmmaker, under house arrest and constant surveillance, walks up to a vehicle following her and holds up a sign saying, "Shame to insult a woman." Female factory workers describe being arrested and harassed when they stand up for their rights.

Shot over eight years, OUTCRY AND WHISPER is a highly personal and sometimes uncomfortably intimate documentary chronicling women's oppression and resistance in mainland China and Hong Kong. One remarkable and tumultuous sequence is shot in the midst of Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrations.

Co-director ZENG Jinyan-the filmmaker who confronts those tailing her-records striking acts of resistance while also sharing excerpts from her own video diary, in which she talks about her enforced separation from her activist husband and the sexual harassment she faces. Female workers-often from rural provinces, who have come to big cities to work-share their stories of being placed under surveillance for organizing, and being arrested by police working in concert with factory owners.

Zeng and Wen previously collaborated on WE THE WORKERS, a verite documentary about the struggles of largely male union activists organizing workers in China. With OUTCRY AND WHISPER, their focus on women broadens the scope beyond labor. From factory workers gathering to demand collective bargaining to women gathering for a feminist film group, they highlight the common struggles women face, and their inventive and powerful means of fighting back.


DVD (Mandarin, With English Subtitles, Color) / 2020 / 100 minutes

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CONFUCIAN DREAM

Director: Mijie Li

Filmmaker Mijie Li's first feature (she co-produced Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert's American Factory), Confucian Dream is an observational documentary about a Chinese woman's embrace of the ancient philosophy of Confucianism and how it affects her family.

Chaoyan, a young wife and mother, believes the ancient teachings of Confucianism will restore balance, respect and morality to her home. She involves her four-year-old son in the rigorous routine of chanting daily mantras. Little Chen may not yet understand the recitations' meanings, but mom is confident she's planting a seed for the future.

Chaoyan's husband finds the daily practice excessive, and indeed many Chinese people today criticize it as feudalistic, conservative, and counter-revolutionary. While Confucianism's primary purpose is to instill peace and harmony, the opposite occurs between Chaoyan and her husband as their beliefs clash and their arguments escalate, bringing forth a gripping portrait of marital and parental crisis.


DVD (Mandarin with English Subtitles) / 2019 / 82 minutes

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LOST COURSE

By Jill Li

Embedding herself in the village of Wukan, southern China for several years starting in 2011, first time documentarian Jill Li witnessed an unprecedented experiment in local democracy. Corrupt officials had illegally sold villagers' land, but the villagers decided to fight back.

The documentary is divided into two halves: the first, "Protests", depicts the grassroots activities of Wukan residents as they work to reverse the land sales and gain a substantial measure of control over their local territory. We see how the villagers themselves learn to organize elections, form alliances, and win support. Part two, "After Protests", confronts the collapse of idealism as the newly elected village government finds itself mired in the same kind of corrupt dealings they had originally condemned.

Li reveals the complexities of their triumphs and setbacks from the inside. Her astonishingly intimate, sympathetic and fair-minded access to the events' major players reveals Chinese local politics with three-dimensional passion and energy.


DVD (Mandarin, With English Subtitles, Color) / 2019 / 180 minutes

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DEAD SOULS

By Wang Bing

In Gansu Province, northwest China, lie the remains of countless prisoners abandoned in the Gobi Desert sixty years ago. Designated as "ultra-rightists" in the Communist Party's Anti-Rightist campaign of 1957, they starved to death in the Jiabiangou and Mingshui reeducation camps. The film invites us to meet the survivors of the camps to find out firsthand who these persons were, the hardships they were forced to endure and what became their destiny.


DVD (Mandarin, Color, With English Subtitles) / 2018 / 495 minutes

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SPARK

Directed by Hu Jie

SPARK opens by the side of a road in Lanzhou City, northwestern China, as trucks rumble through a blasted hillside. An elderly man walks along the dusty road and pauses to point to a nearby spot—the former execution grounds. "They executed many," the man says. "Then fewer and fewer."

Two of those executed were contributors to Spark, a short-lived magazine from Gansu Province whose young, intellectual contributors bravely shone a light on the horrific realities of life during the Great Leap Forward. More than 35 million people died of famine between 1959 and 1961, in large part because of Communist Party policies. To this day, the Party has never fully acknowledged the scope of the disaster.

In SPARK, filmmaker Hu Jie—who has been described as "China's most important unofficial historian-filmmaker"— tracks down the surviving men and women of Spark, including founder Gu Yan, allowing them to tell their stories.

Weaving together their interviews, the film is in an oral history of the magazine and the tumultuous period that from which it arose. The interviews are striking in their clarity and their emotional immediacy 60 years later. The son of Du Yinghua, a local Communist Party county committee secretary executed for his sympathy for the Spark writers, breaks down in tears after laying out copies of his father's books. Tan Chanxue seems completely at ease—even smiling—as she recalls being herded, bound, through throngs of schoolchildren brought to witness and cheer the Spark members' public outdoor trial. Remarkably, Hu even gets the Tianshui City leader at the time, Tao Yanlie, to admit that authorities prevented people from leaving town, while 100,000 residents died of hunger. Their deaths, he says, were "recorded but useless. We had to report it, but so what?" At one point, Hu suspects he is being followed. During an interview, the phone rings. The interview subject replies, then refuses to continue the conversation.

The writers who contributed to Spark were not all driven by the same motives. Xiang Chengian, who describes thousands of bodies lining the railway tracks between station and city, thought Party officials must be unaware of the extent of the disaster and would intervene if they knew. In contrast, Zhang Chunyuan wondered how the Communist Party could have become so corrupt in so few years, and said it was clearly fascistic. And Lin Zhao, one of several women contributors, couched her critiques more obliquely, in the form of poetry. All were branded as rightists and faced persecution during the Anti-Rightist Movement of the late 1950s, and both Lin and Zhang were sentenced to hefty prison terms, subsequently changed to death sentences.

A brave and powerful document, SPARK is a testament to the threat to power that comes from people willing to speak out about what they see—and an invaluable contribution to understanding the period of the Great Leap Forward.


DVD (Mandarin with English Subtitles, Color) / 2018 / 114 minutes

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MAINELAND

By Miao Wang

Chinese teenagers from the wealthy elite, with big American dreams, settle into a boarding school in small-town Maine. As their fuzzy visions of the American dream slowly gain more clarity, their relationship to home takes on a poignant new aspect.

Filmed over three years in China and the U.S., MAINELAND is a multi-layered coming-of-age tale that follows two affluent and cosmopolitan teenagers as they settle into a boarding school in blue-collar rural Maine. Part of the enormous wave of "parachute students" from China enrolling in U.S. private schools, bubbly, fun-loving Stella and introspective Harry come seeking a Western-style education, escape from the dreaded Chinese college entrance exam, and the promise of a Hollywood-style U.S. high school experience. In one sleepy Maine town, worlds collide as students fresh from China learn to navigate the muddy waters of this microcosmic global village.

Through lyrical cinematography that transports us from China to the U.S., MAINELAND captures a new crop of future Chinese elites as they try to find their place between the collectivist society they come from and the individualist culture they come to embrace. As Stella and Harry's fuzzy visions of the American dream slowly gain more clarity, they ruminate on their experiences of alienation, culture clash, and personal identity, sharing new understandings and poignant discourses on home and country.


DVD (Color) / 2017 / 90 minutes

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OBSERVER, THE

Directed by Rita Andreetti
By Rita Andreetti, Matteo Bosi

In August 2014, the 11th Beijing Independant Film Festival was shut down after repeated threats from local authorities. The government wouldn't tolerate the screening of some 'sensitive' works, particularly a historical documentary called "Spark". The news shook filmmakers and public opinion alike and filmmaker Rita Andreetti couldn't help but begin on a search for the man whose work had pushed the government to the edge of tolerance.

The Observer is the portrait of the extraordinary and undetected work of Chinese dissedent artist, Hu Jie. Despite making huge contributions to historical research by uncovering essential testimonies from China's past, his body of work hasn't been recognized the way it deserves.

Carefully ducking away from the spotlight, he has managed to make more than 30 documentaries throughout his career. The content of his work is vital to understanding Chinese society and the preservation of the memory of its past; he is the first artist to dare talk about the Great Famine, the labor camps (Lao Gai) and the Cultural Revolution in an uncompromised way. For that, he is commonly considered the first historical documentary maker of China, despite his blacklisted status.

Rita Andreetti, director and young Italian film critic, allows viewers to discover Hu Jie's humanity and social commitment as she searches herself for Chinese identity. Inspired by the tenacity and the inner strength of Hu Jie himself, the documentary shows how his prolific activity has recently turned into a more intimate pictorial production. Although under increasing pressure, Hu Jie continues today, with different means, to tirelessly fight for the truth.


DVD (Mandarin with English Subtitles, Color) / 2017 / 78 minutes

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WE THE WORKERS

By Wen Hai, Zeng Jinyan

Shot over a six-year period (2009-2015) in the industrial heartland of south China, a major hub in the global supply chain, WE THE WORKERS follows labor activists as they find common ground with workers, helping them negotiate with local officials and factory owners over wages and working conditions. Threats, attacks, detention and boredom become part of their daily lives as they struggle to strengthen worker solidarity in the face of threats and pressures from the police and their employers. In the process, we see in their words and actions the emergence of a nascent working class consciousness and labor movement in China.


DVD (English, Mandarin, Color, With English Subtitles) / 2017 / 174 minutes

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WIDOWED WITCH, THE

By Cai Chengjie

Winner of the top prize at the Rotterdam Film Festival, director Cai Chengjie's debut feature is, like its titular protagonist, defiantly low-fi, unexpectedly powerful and fiercely unpredictable.

Deemed cursed by the local villagers, three-time widow Er Hao (played by Tian Tian) has her hands full with a rogue fireworks explosion, a tagalong teenager, and a veritable army of crazed local men who can't keep their hands off her. Turned away when she seeks shelter from her neighbors and forced to take up residence in a cold camper van, Er Hao's future looks as bleak as the stark, snowy countryside.

But a series of fluke changes in fortune causes Er Hao to embrace the mystical identity her villagers have assigned to her. As a sort of modern shaman, she steers superstitions into small subversions, helping others who once shunned her and proving that to survive as a woman is a kind of magic.

THE WIDOWED WITCH fearlessly addresses the power of religion in China which, according to the dictates of Communism, is effectively banned. It also conveys the cruelty that can come with village life, and counters the Western narrative of China as a superpower by showing a place where the rule of law is all but nonexistent. Not only is there no recourse or safety net, even the rape that Er Hao suffers goes unpunished. Abused and shunned, Er Hao gains power over the men who have wronged her—but can she find a place in a misogynist, patriarchal and deeply lonely social structure?

With a stunning array of visual styles and a genre-exploding approach to storytelling, THE WIDOWED WITCH is a simultaneously idealistic and despairing film—a bleak view wrapped in a fabulist aesthetic, and one that encompasses both magic realism and crushing social satire.


DVD (Mandarin with English Subtitles, Color, Black and White) / 2017 / 118 minutes

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BEEKEEPER AND HIS SON, THE

By Diedie Wang

The widening gap between generations in China today is at the heart of this deeply resonant documentary about a son, recently returned from the city, trying to modernize his aging father's beekeeping business.

After drifting aimlessly as a migrant worker, Maofu returns to his family bee farm in rural Northern China. Still in his early twenties and eager to provide support for his parents, Maofu brings with him big ideas for the family business; new thoughts on marketing and branding to increase honey sales.

His father, Lao Yu, however, maintains a deep commitment to the traditions of beekeeping which he's practiced for more than five decades. Now in his declining years, Lao Yu also sees first-hand how environmental pollution is depleting his bee colonies. He's struggling with his own self-worth, as well as mixed emotions of whether his son should even stay in this traditional line of work.

As father and son try to collaborate, their vastly different approaches, both to business and to life, run headlong into one other. It's a clash between tradition and modernization; one that is playing out in millions of families across the country.


DVD / 2016 / 85 minutes

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BITTER MONEY

By Wang Bing

BITTER MONEY documents China's rapid economic and social transformation by following the rural workers who leave their Yunnan hometown to move to the city of Huzhou, one of the busiest cities of eastern China (with the highest number of part-time workers), to labor in its textile factories. But what they find are few opportunities and poor living conditions that push people, even couples, into violent and oppressive relations. The camera follows Xiao Min, Ling Ling, and Lao Yeh closely, capturing the emotions of their daily hard work and disappointments upon receiving their wages. The film deals directly with the effects of 21st-century capitalism, as filmmaker Wang Bing acts as witness to the lives of people forced to adapt to a new economic landscape.


DVD (Mandarin, Color, With English Subtitles) / 2016 / 152 minutes

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CHINESE LIVES OF ULI SIGG, THE

By Michael Schindhelm

Art world sensation Ai Weiwei credits him with launching his international career. Renowned pianist Lang Lang describes him as a mentor to Chinese artists. Curator Victoria Lu believes that his taste and influence as a collector has been felt around the world.

But when Swiss businessman Uli Sigg first went to China, art was far from his mind. The year was 1979, and Sigg-working for the Schindler escalator and elevator company-was hoping to set up one of the first joint ventures between the Chinese government, seeking international investment in the post-Mao era, and a Western company. At the time, even the fanciest hotels had rats, boardrooms were so poorly heated you could see your breath, and the government still regulated hairstyles (five different kinds of perm allowed).

Uli Sigg is not a man who does things by halves. "My ego, my way" says a t-shirt he wears at one point in the film. When he took up rowing, he went to the world championships. When he negotiated a joint venture, he wanted to create a model for future partnerships. And when he became interested in Chinese art, he built a world-class personal collection.

Sigg championed the artists he admired, working tirelessly for their international recognition and to preserve their artwork as a record of China's tumultuous and historic changes. Eventually, Sigg became the Swiss ambassador to China and a consultant on major Chinese art projects, including the construction of the Bird's Nest stadium for the Olympic Games.

THE CHINESE LIVES OF ULI SIGG, directed by art historian and scholar Michael Schindhelm (Bird's Nest) and produced by Marcel Hoehn (Dark Star: H. R. Giger's World, The Knowledge ofo Healing, Monte Grande, Santiago Calatrava's Travels, The Written Face) is a history of China's recent opening to the West, and of the West's embrace of Chinese contemporary art, through the eyes of Sigg and the artists he championed. Artists including Ai Weiwei, Cao Chong'en, Cao Fei, Gang Lijun, Feng Mengbo, Shao Fan, Wang Guangyi and Zeng Fanzhi are interviewed along with curators, diplomats, architects and business colleagues in this colorful documentary survey of contemporary Chinese art.


DVD (Color) / 2016 / 93 minutes

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COMPLICIT

Directed by Heather White, Lynn Zhang

Benzene-poisoned, Foxconn factory worker takes his fight against the global smartphone industry from his hospital bed in China to the international stage.

Yi YeTing is struggling with occupational leukemia and trying to obtain compensation from his employer. Wanting to help others, he begins working for a non-profit that assists workers with occupational illness and injuries.

He discovers there are dozens of workers in his local area who were poisoned while making smartphones. Through research in the community, he discovers a leukemia cluster in the neighborhood surrounding Apple's main supplier Foxconn. Yi's research leads him to several workers and their families trying to survive while burdened with their health care costs. Powerful forces are unleashed as he confronts local factories, putting his own safety at risk.


DVD / 2016 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adults) / 89 minutes

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IN SEARCH OF PERFECT CONSONANCE

By Ruby Yang

Twenty-five years ago, China was at war with Vietnam, the Chinese and the Japanese were at loggerheads, and relations across the Taiwan Strait were fraught with tension. Against this backdrop, the Asian Youth Orchestra was founded with the aim of connecting the region's young people through music.

Directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ruby Yang (The Blood of Yingzhou District, The Warriors of Qiugang), In Search of Perfect Consonance profiles this renowned orchestra for a moving chronicle of recent history and a powerful meditation on music and the higher ideals that it inspires.

As the budding young musicians of the Asian Youth Orchestra come together for an intense summer of rehearsals and concerts, we see them reach for these higher ideals. Selected from thousands of applicants across the region, they must overcome not only national differences but also an Asian musical education that emphasizes individual technical brilliance over ensemble performance. By learning to listen to each other and work together, they reconnect with a passion for music, a passion that not only allows their talents to bloom, but also creates deep bonds between them.

These bonds are at the heart of the Asian Youth Orchestra. It was created by conductor Richard Pontzious, who at the time was touring extensively in Taiwan, Japan and China introducing Chinese audiences emerging from the horrors of the Cultural Revolution to the music of Beethoven, Brahms, Prokofiev and Copland. The orchestra's founding principle was to promote peace and friendship through the power of music. It's an aim that has garnered support from some of the world's top musicians, with the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin leading the way, becoming the orchestra's co-founder and first conductor.

Today, it's apt that the piece being prepared by the young orchestra for their three-week concert tour is nothing less than the last movement of Beethoven's 9th. It's a piece that eulogizes brotherhood and, as young Taiwanese trombonist Shao hua Wu says, is "full of hope".


DVD / 2016 / 38 minutes

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INSIDE THE CHINESE CLOSET

By Sophia Luvara

In a nondescript lounge somewhere in Shanghai, men and women giggle, eyeing prospective partners, visibly nervous about making the first move. This isn't your average matchmaking event—it's a "fake-marriage fair," where gay men and women meet to make matrimonial deals with members of the opposite sex in order to satisfy social and familial expectations of heterosexual unions. Inside the Chinese Closet is the intricate tale of Andy and Cherry looking for love and happiness in vibrant Shanghai. They are both homosexual but their families demand a (heterosexual) marriage and a baby from them. Because being single and childless would mean an unacceptable loss of face for their rural families, particularly in the remote countryside where they live. Will Andy and Cherry deny their happiness and sexual orientation to satisfy their parents' wishes? The stories of Andy and Cherry mirror the legal and cultural progress that is happening in China against the backdrop of a nation coming to terms with new moral values.


DVD (Color) / 2016 / 70 minutes

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INSIDE THESE WALLS

By Juliet Lammers And Lorraine Price

What happens when a loved one is imprisoned overseas?

In 2002, Wang Bingzhang, founder of the Overseas Chinese Democracy Movement, was in Vietnam meeting with other activists when he was kidnapped, beaten, blindfolded and brought into China where he was imprisoned. He has spent the last fourteen years in solitary confinement.

Although he was mostly absent as a husband and father before his imprisonment, his family feels a deep sense of duty and responsibility towards him. The family fights tirelessly for his release by speaking on his behalf, staging protests, and keeping his story relevant in Western media.

From prison, Dr. Wang sends monthly letters to his family, often over fifty pages long with intricate illustrations. These letters range in tone from fiercely accusatory to humble and remorseful. His son reflects that his father has probably spoken more words to him through these letters than he has in person. And his ex-wife observes, "In a weird way, he's more of a father now than he ever was."

The story of a political dissident and a family struggling to secure his freedom, Inside These Walls weaves a complex tale of political intrigue, familial responsibility and personal sacrifice.


DVD / 2016 / 44 minutes

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OF SHADOWS

By Yi Cui

Includes two short films, LATE SUMMER and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.

OF SHADOWS is set in the unique landscape of China's Loess Plateau, where the shadow play, as an enigmatic art form, has entertained people and deities for centuries. The film follows a lively and resilient group of shadow play performers as they navigate between the rural staging of ancient plays and the urban spectacle of national cultural heritage.

The film starts when the local performers in a small county called Huanxian are gathered to rehearse for the region's shadow theatre festival. The performance of modern cultural preservation is contemplated, as the folk artists move towards a grand stage. Meanwhile, the filmmaker follows the same group of performers into mountain villages where the shadow play theatre serves local life. A poetic picture of the folk artists unfolds as their everyday life and performance meander through light and shadow.

By juxtaposing the rural and the urban, the grassroots and the official, the state and the local, the light and the shadow, the film paints a haunting portrait of a revered folk tradition transforming against the backdrop of a country in constant transition.

As the last part of Yi Cui's trilogy Ying, which explores the theme of cultural decay and revival, OF SHADOWS goes beyond the melancholy over the decline of traditional culture and searches for the resilience and vitality in the grassroots and the folklore. This poetic ethnography continues the filmmaker's pursuit for the rhythmic flow in cinematic medium - meanings are conveyed not only through narrative threads but also through the musicality.


DVD (Mandarin With English Subtitles, Color) / 2016 / 79 minutes

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ONLY ME GENERATION - AN INTROSPECTIVE LOOK INTO CHINA'S ONE-CHILD POLICY

The one-child policy, a part of China's family planning policy, was a population planning policy of installed by the Chinese government. It was introduced in 1979 and began to be formally phased out in 2015.

"Only Me Generation" is a documentary that explores the effects of the China's "One Child Policy" from the perspective of the policy's first generation point of view.

Almost 30 years ago, the Chinese government first introduced the "one child policy" to alleviate social, economic and environmental problems. Three decades later, they are now looking at a relaxation of the policy. The result is that the babies born under the current policy are a unique population set with issues and challenges that are different from those of other Chinese generations; most notably that they grew up as "only children".

This film provides a unique look into a unprecedented government policy that changed the rules of a society, impacted far more than a generation, and can now be studied on a variety of fronts. The film raises numerous questions and serves as a wonderful launching point for discussion and debate.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of "only children" in a generation of only "only children"?

What are the pressures that these children, the results of the policy, have lived under?

How have parental expectations changes due to family limits on the number of children permitted?

What are their social experiences now that these Only Me Generation children are now adults?

What are the ramifications, if any, of relaxing the policy now after so many years?


DVD (Color) / 2016 / 58 minutes

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PATHS OF THE SOUL

By Zhang Yang

An astonishing journey of redemption, faith, and devotion. Internationally acclaimed filmmaker Zhang Yang (Shower, Getting Home) blurs the border between documentary and fiction to follow a group of Tibetan villagers who leave their families and homes in the small village of Nyima to make a Buddhist "bowing pilgrimage"-laying their bodies flat on the ground after every few steps-along the 1,200 mile road to Lhasa, the holy capital of Tibet. Though united in their remarkable devotion, each of the travelers embarks on this near impossible journey for very personal reasons. One traveler needs to expunge bad family karma, a butcher wants to cleanse animal bloodstains from his soul, another nearing his life's end, hopes that the prostrations will break the chain of cause and effect determined by his life's actions.

Stunningly photographed over the course of an entire year, with non-professional actors and no script, PATHS OF THE SOUL is a mesmerizing study of faith that will inspire viewers to reflect on their own journey through life.


DVD (Region 1, Color) / 2016 / 117 minutes

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PROFESSOR, THE: TAI CHI'S JOURNEY WEST

Director: Barry Strugatz

The Professor: Tai Chi's Journey West is a feature documentary about Tai Chi and one of its greatest masters, Cheng Man-Ching, a man who brought Tai Chi and Chinese culture to the West during the swinging, turbulent 60's. Though Cheng is an important transformational figure, his teachings have been overlooked. This documentary film tells the story of his remarkable life and features Tai Chi as a martial art and a spiritual practice.


DVD / 2016 / 67 minutes

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TA'ANG

By Wang Bing

Director Wang Bing brings his careful eye to the mountainous border-region of northeastern Myanmar in Ta'ang, a powerful and revealing observational documentary that follows members of the Ta'ang minority as they flee to China to escape an ongoing and escalating civil war. In a pair of refugee camps, those displaced by the war attempt to create reasonably safe living conditions, while others go deeper into China where they may find work in sugarcane fields or try their luck in urban areas. Meanwhile, those still in Myanmar must journey across the mountains, belongings and livestock in tow, as the sounds of gunfire and artillery echo around them. Ta'ang captures the constant insecurity, instability and disorientation that come with life as a refugee, the complexities of the choices the Ta'ang face, and the emotional toll they take.


DVD (Color, With English Subtitles) / 2016 / 147 minutes

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BEHEMOTH

By Zhao Liang

Beginning with a mining explosion in Mongolia and ending in a ghost city west of Beijing, political documentarian Zhao Liang's extraordinary, visionary new film Behemoth details, in one breathtaking sequence after another, the social and environmental devastation behind an economic miracle that may yet prove illusory.

Drawing inspiration from The Divine Comedy, Zhao offers intoxicating and terrifying images of the ravages wrought by his country's coal and iron industries on both the land and its people. Beautiful grasslands covered in soot and dust. Mountains shredded in half. Herdsmen and their families forced to leave their lands, to escape poisonous air. Miners descending deeper into pitch black mine shafts. Scorching ironworks that resemble hellish infernos. And in hospitals, ill-equipped to handle the deluge, workers suffering critical illnesses.

Building upon his previous acclaimed exposes (2009's Petition, 2007's Crime and Punishment), Zhao combines muck-racking journalistic techniques with stunning visuals to capture an unfolding nightmare. It's a film replete with haunting imagery. But none more so than Zhao's tour through a barren metropolis, a gleaming, newly constructed city, intended as a workers' paradise, that now stands empty, desolate of life; waiting, perhaps, for that economic miracle.


DVD / 2015 / 90 minutes

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DREAMING AGAINST THE WORLD

By Francisco Bello And Tim Sternberg

A beautiful, evocative documentary, Dreaming Against the World captures the life, work and struggle of one of the most original yet under-recognized artists of the 20th century – the writer and visual artist Mu Xin; and in doing so, offers a vivid account of art, and its survival, in turbulent times.

Born in 1927 to a wealthy family in the south China city of Wuzhen - Mu Xin was among the last generation to receive a classical education in the literati tradition. After the Communists came to power, Mu Xin, along with many other intellectuals and artists, was arrested and sentenced to hard labor.

But it was here that Mu Xin demonstrated his incredible resolve and commitment to the artistic vision. Risking execution, he began to write and paint, creating an astonishing body of work that merged East and West, the ancient and the modern, terror and transcendence.

Structured around intimate and revealing conversations with Mu Xin, as well as with renowned artist Chen Danqing (Mu Xin's student when the elder artist lived in New York from 1982 to 2006), Dreaming Against the World is a rich documentary portrait.


DVD / 2015 / 35 minutes

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HONG KONG TRILOGY

By Christopher Doyle

Renowned cinematographer and artist Christopher Doyle celebrates Hong Kong and its people with his feature documentary debut, Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous, a vibrant work divided into three parts that focuses on the city's residents in their childhood, youth, and old age.

In Doyle's special form of cinematic narrative, real people improvise fictive scenes inspired by their own stories, which we hear in voiceover. The film's many endearing characters are all portrayed with rare grace: kids interrogating themselves on the topic of world religion, young rappers and artists giving voice to their discontent in underground music bars, and senior citizens going on speed-dating tours of the city.

The film's free-flowing form is much like that of a jazz music piece in which improvisation is as important as a carefully studied score. Many of its images depict a Hong Kong that has never before been represented on film; Doyle shows the slow side of the city, the one inhabited by people who value ideals over finances. Of particular note is his inclusion of the Umbrella Movement and the recent pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong, which blocked traffic, arrested the city's frenzied pace, and forced people to stop and ponder the real meaning of freedom.

The questions raised by the Umbrella Movement — questions about how we can live together and what a society should be — permeate all three sections of this collaboratively made triptych. Hong Kong Trilogy is an artwork in sync with the pulse of the city, truly a film "of the people, by the people, for the people."

Doyle's illustrious career as a cinematographer includes films by Wong Kar-Wai (In The Mood for Love, Fallen Angels, Chungking Express), Jim Jarmusch (The Limits of Control), Gus Van Sant (Paranoid Park), and Zhang Yimou (Hero), among many others.


DVD / 2015 / 85 minutes

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KAILI BLUES

By Bi Gan

A stunning debut from Chinese director Bi Gan, Kaili Blues is an audacious, mesmerizing work that announces the arrival of a major new filmmaker.

In a small clinic in the rain-drenched city of Kaili, two preoccupied doctors live ghost-like lives. One of them, Chen, decides to fulfill a family wish and sets off on a train journey to search for his brother's abandoned child, only to find himself in a dreamlike world where past, present, and future—as well as fantasy and reality—become one.

This remarkable visual achievement, which feels as singular and alien as the films of the great Apichatpong Weerasethakul, was shot in the mining village Kaili, the director's birthplace, and incorporates poetry he has been writing since he was a teenager.


DVD / 2015 / 113 minutes

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THARLO

By Pema Tseden

"Renowned Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden returns with his profoundly moving new feature (adapted from his own novella) about a Tibetan shepherd named Tharlo. Visiting a Tibetan town in Qinghai province to obtain a proper ID card from the local police station, Tharlo surprises Police Chief Dorje by reciting from memory a lengthy excerpt from one of Chairman Mao's essays. But things develop in a romantic rather than a political direction. To prepare for his ID photo, Tharlo needs his hair washed, and so meets Yangtso, a beautiful local hairdresser. Their courtship is both exquisitely awkward and enthrallingly suspenseful. Tharlo is smitten, but town-dweller Yangtso's ideas of fun are not quite Tharlo's, and he spends an uncomfortable evening with her at a local karaoke joint.

"This is a passionate love story with darker undercurrents, where basic pastoral imperatives such as protecting his sheep from hungry wolves run against Tharlo's discovery of the contemporary pleasures of smoking, drinking, singing and sex.


DVD (Black and White, Tibetan with English Subtitles) / 2015 / 123 minutes

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MOSUO SISTERS, THE

By Marlo Poras

A tale of two sisters living in the shadow of two Chinas, this documentary by award-winning filmmaker Marlo Poras (Mai's America; Run Grany Run) follows Juma and Latso, young women from one of the world's last remaining matriarchal societies. Thrust into the worldwide economic downturn after losing jobs in Beijing and left with few options, they return to their remote Himalayan village. But growing exposure to modernity has irreparably altered traditions of the Mosuo, their tiny ethnic miniority, and home is not the same. Determined to keep their family out of poverty, one sister sacrifices her educational dreams and stays home to farm, while the other leaves, trying her luck in the city. The changes test them in unexpected ways. This visually stunning film highlights today's realities of women's lives and China's vast cultural and economic divides while offering rare views of a surviving matriarchy.


DVD (Mandarin/Mosuo/Tibetan, Color) / 2013 / 80 minutes

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XU BING: PHOENIX

By Daniel Traub

"Drawing inspiration from the contemporary realities of his fast-changing country, Chinese artist Xu Bing spent two years creating his newest work, Phoenix. The installation features two monumental birds fabricated entirely from materials harvested from construction sites in urban China, including demolition debris, steel beams, tools, and remnants of the daily lives of migrant laborers. At once fierce and strangely beautiful, the mythic Phoenixes bear witness to the complex interconnection between labor, history, commercial development, and the rapid accumulation of wealth in today's China." -MASS MoCA

The film Xu Bing: Phoenix documents the process of creating the work through to its installation at the Massachusetts' Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA).


DVD (English, Mandarin, Color, With English Subtitles) / 2013 / 17 minutes

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FUTURE FOOD: STAY OR GO? (CHINA)

Directed by Alex Gabbay

Who will grow China's food as young people leave the countryside for the cities?

In many remote areas of China young people have little choice but to stay on the land, and yet they may face a destitute future, with millions of farmworkers in China earning less than two dollars a day. Although there are some exceptions, farming is not generally seen as a "sexy" career choice.

The reality is that in China and around the world, young people are fleeing the countryside and moving to the big cities. Who will grow the food that feeds future generations? How can young people be convinced that farming is a good option? Californian-born Rand and his wife Sherry are the founders of Resonance China, a social media agency in Shanghai. They use the internet to create and identify trends and tricks that can create a buzz for global brands. FUTURE FOOD sets Resonance a task: can they make farming popular with young people?


DVD / 2012 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adult) / 29 minutes

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BEIJING TAXI

By Miao Wang

BEIJING TAXI is a timely, uncensored and richly cinematic portrait of China's ancient capital as it undergoes a profound transformation. The film takes an intimate and compelling look at the lives of three cab drivers as they confront modern issues and changing values against the backdrop of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Through their daily struggles infused with humor and quiet determination, BEIJING TAXI reveals the complexity and contradictions of China's shifting paradigm.

BEIJING TAXI is a feature-length documentary that vividly portrays the ancient capital of China undergoing a profound transformation. The intimate lives of three taxi drivers are seen through a humanistic lens as they navigate a quickly morphing city, confronting modern issues and changing values. The three protagonists radiate a warm sense of humanity despite the struggles that each faces in adapting to new realities of life in the modern city. With stunning imagery of Beijing and a contemporary score rich in atmosphere, BEIJING TAXI communicates a visceral sense of the common citizens' persistent attempts to grasp the elusive. The 2008 Summer Olympic Games serve as the backdrop for BEIJING TAXI's story, a coming out party for a rising nation and a metaphor for Chinese society and its struggles to reconcile enormous contradictions while adjusting to a new capitalist system that can seem foreign to some in the Communist-ruled and educated society. Candid and perceptive in its filming approach and highly cinematic and moody in style, BEIJING TAXI takes us on a lyrical journey through fragments of a society riding the bumpy roads to modernization. Though its destination unknown, the drivers continue to forge ahead.


DVD (Region 1, Mandarin, Color, With English Subtitles) / 2010 / 78 minutes

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