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Film Screening – China’s Van Goghs

March 20, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

The documentary screening will be followed by a Q&A with Producer and Director Kiki Tianqi Yu via Skype, moderated by Benny Shaffer, PhD Candidate in Media Anthropology.

 About the film:
China’s Van Goghs (Mandarin with English subtitles, 80 min, HD)

Until 1989, Dafen Village on the outskirts of Shenzhen, China was little more than a rural hamlet. It now has a population of 10,000, which includes hundreds of peasants-turned-oil painters. In their studios, and even in its alleyways, Dafen’s painters produce thousands of replicas of world-famous Western paintings. No one thinks much of an order for 200 Van Goghs. To meet deadlines, painters sleep on the floor between clotheslines strung with reproduced masterpieces. In 2015, the revenue from painting sales was over $65 million. In China’s Van Goghs, directors Haibo Yu and Kiki Tianqi Yu follow one of the village’s most celebrated painters, Xiaoyong Zhao, who with the help of his family members has painted around 100,000 Van Goghs. After all these years, Zhao feels a profound affinity with Van Gogh. Having never seen Van Gogh’s original paintings, Zhao’s biggest dream is to travel to Amsterdam to see the works of his legendary inspiration. After struggling and saving up for many years, he fulfills his dream. The documentary not only presents how this painter pursues his vision, but also tells the human story of challenge and struggle throughout his journey, which is ultimately emblematic of the transformative journey that China is undergoing from “Made in China” to “Created in China.”

After its premier at International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA) in 2016, Chinas Van Goghs has been shown at Helsinki Documentary Film Festival DocPoint, Thessaloniki Film Festival,  Visions Du Reel, New Zealand International Film Festival, DMZ Docs South Korea, British Film Institute London’s special program, and over twenty other film festivals. It has won Best Feature Documentary (international co-production) at Beijing International Film Festival and Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival, as well as Best Feature Documentary at Los Angeles Chinese Film Festival.

About the Directors:

Producer and Co-director:
Kiki Tianqi YU is a filmmaker, scholar, and film curator. Originally from China, Kiki studied film and sociology at the University of Westminster and the University of Cambridge. Having lectured in China, she is currently Lecturer in Filmmaking at the University of the West of Scotland. Yu has published on first person documentary, Chinese cinema, amateur cinema and memory in Studies in Documentary FilmJournal of Chinese CinemasJournal of Contemporary Chinese Art, and other publications. She is the author of the forthcoming monograph My ‘Self’ On Camera: First Person Documentary Practice in an Individualizing China (Edinburg University Press, 2018), and the co-editor of China’s iGeneration: Cinema and Moving Image Culture for the 21st Century (2014). Her films include Photographing Shenzhen (2007), Memory of Home (2009), and the feature-length documentary China’s Van Goghs (IDFA, 2016), which won seven international awards and screened at over twenty film festivals.

Co-director and Cinematographer:
YU Haibo is a filmmaker and a well-known Chinese documentary photographer. He serves as the Director of the Shenzhen Professional Photographers Association and the Chief Photo Editor of Shenzhen Economic Daily. His most prominent photo series, “China Dafen Oil Painting Village,” won the 49th World Press Photography Contest in 2006, and was acquired by the San Francisco Modern Art Museum, and V&A Museum, London. Yu is a pioneer in surrealist photography in China through his work “On the Other Riverside of the Illusion Chain,” which won the top prize at the 15th National Photography Exhibition in 1988. Since 1989, he has been working on documentary photography, and his photo series including “Tibet,” “Music Youth,” “China’s Urban Expansion,” have won many prizes and been exhibited internationally. Yu published a book Living in China’s Shenzhen (2008), and a photo-essay film One Man’s Shenzhen (2012).

This event is sponsored by the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. Emergent Visions is a screening and discussion series that showcases new and innovative works of digital cinema from China.


March 20, 2018
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium (S010)
1730 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA 02138 United States
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Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

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