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Styles, subjects, and special points of view: a study of contemporary Chinese independent documentary

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Abstract:

This study explores the origins, styles, problems, solutions, and possible future directions in Chinese independent documentary from a comparative perspective. I argue that Chinese independent (or underground) film-making actually started with independent documentary in the late 1980s and that the Chinese preference for the cinéma-vérité and interview styles represents an attempt to resist the propagandist, voice-of-God approach in the official news and documentary programming. However, self-erasure and misconceived objectivity typical of the earlier works engendered problems in documentary film-making, and a subsequent selfrepositioning in the late 1990s has reclaimed the subjective voice and readjusted the artist’s attitude toward their subjects. The call for returning to the personal is further exemplified in the current euphoria for DV works, and the idea of amateur film-making once again highlights the connection between independent documentary and its special points of view on ordinary people’s lives in a changing society.

Keywords: Chinese documentary; DV amateurism; independent filmmaking; objectivity; styles; subjectivity

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/ncin.2.2.119/0

Affiliations: University of California at San Diego

Publication date: 2004-09-01

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  • The journal aims to provide a platform for the study of new forms of cinematic practice and fresh approaches to cinemas hitherto neglected in western scholarship. It particularly welcomes scholarship that does not take existing paradigms and theoretical conceptualisations as given; rather, it anticipates submissions that are refreshing in approach and exhibit a willingness to tackle cinematic practices that are still in the process of development into something new.  
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