Curation: Cinema Rewired

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How do we watch film? What does film mean to us? Questions like these became once again essential when the pandemic gradually eased.

When numbers of screens, box office records and release schedule are repeatedly mentioned and celebrated, it might be hard to recall what cinema is like before it became a common part of contemporary cultural life. But in films like ONE SECOND (2021, dir. Zhang Yimou), we can still take a glimpse on what role cinema used to play in the history.

We try to go back in time, following the history of film, to track the role cinema played, the function it carries, and the meaning it fulfilled in different times. How does cinema get people together to produce and to view? Through a series of films on films, we discuss about the filmmaker’s expectation on cinema, cinema’s own delivery, and the audience reception in history as well as in nowadays.

As an artform of collective viewing, Chinese cinema’s early development stage is highly overlapped with drama. With the special history background, it naturally carried the duty of propaganda and education. But also with the elite group of filmmakers, a high standard of Chinese cinema got established. After that time, cinema became not that rare to produce and therefore could take more responsibilities. The intellectual groups rewrite memory with film to deliver their very reflection on history. When capital joined the game, film’s identity as an entertainment got emphasized. It gradually became the bridge between collectivism and individual dreams in the times of drastic changes. And finally, we have the films that are now released in theatres as a comparison. Cinema changes from being centralized to more diverted, but also become simplex and fragmented in different directions.

In the classical EIGHT THOUSAND LI OF CLOUD AND MOON, cinema crossed over with drama. While the left-wing artists delivered their political ideas in film, they were also establishing the artistic standard of the new Chinese cinema. THE GOLD AND SILVER RIVER BAND is the only film that is not about filmmaking itself, but rather it was part of Xining’s city film history. In the 1960s, the film was screened in the first cinema in Qinghai, and without a doubt became a hit. In the 1980s, the filmmaker use cinema as a fictional method in NARROW STREET to reflect on history and to express their expectation on the reality. When it comes to the 1990s, cinema became part of the everyday life. The delivery guys in STREET KNIGHT somehow reminds us of the food delivery guys running on the streets nowadays, the fate of the COMIC STAR, the struggle of the stunt guy in UNEXPECTED PASSION, all seems to echo with the reality we are dealing with right now.

Following the changes of cinema in different times, we might be able to get to a clearer perspective to watch the films that are exhibited in the festival and in theatres. If we are lucky enough, we might manage to find some answers: Will what we are watching changes how we watch film in the future? Will the content we are watching today tells the future of cinema?