Two essays of mine have just been published! The first, a book chapter on Yunfest and the act of translating rural experiences into an urban film space, is a part of the volume Chinese Film Festivals. I'm really pleased to have my chapter included in this book, not the least in order to situate an analysis of the work and experiences of rural, amateur filmmakers in China alongside studies more mainstream and more well publicized film industry professionals.
The second publication is a "think-piece" commentary for Cultural Anthropology on using/including media elements in anthropological publishing, and what journals and scholars can do to help guide this process. Without insisting on hard and fast guidelines, I think we can create space and practices to foster more creative and critical media work. This essay is meant as a conversation starter -- and a way to highlight some of the recent projects launched by Visual Anthropology Review, Cultural Anthropology, and others.
As a part of my ongoing collaborative research with Luke Robinson, a film studies scholar of Chinese independent films at the University of Sussex, we've recently co-authored a short commentary about independent film festivals in China and the archival impulse that seems to motivate continued support and organization of these events, even as they have been cancelled and closed down in the past few years. Here's a short excerpt from our essay, which is now published online in Anthropology News:
"Occupying that grey area between the spirit and the letter of the law, independent Chinese film festivals have thus always been potentially subject to official interference....in 2012 [the Beijing Independent Film Festival] had its electricity supply “starved” during the opening night, and cut entirely a year later. Thus, while the suppression of the 2014 festival was particularly invasive, it was not unique. What was new was the confiscation of computers, files, and papers. Independent Chinese cinema has no official archive. Organizations like the Li Xianting Film Foundation have therefore become central to Chinese independent film culture not just as coordinating hubs for programs, but also as spaces of record: places to view and store films and to read publications about them. By targeting both the BIFF screenings and the Li Xianting Film Foundation collection, the Chinese authorities made an explicit connection between limiting the public exhibition of independent cinema and seizing control of the means to collect and preserve this body of work."
Read the full essay here. We are planning to continue this project through further research in China and interviews with filmmakers and festival organizers, in order to build a more complete portrait of the impact and influence of independent film culture in contemporary China.
Visual Anthropology Review Issue 30 Number 1
Special Issues on new ethnographic film in China
Maris Gillette has edited a special issue of VAR, featuring five research articles and film reviews of recently completed ethnographic films about China directed by anthropologists: Writing in Water, by Angela Zito; Chaiqian/Demolition by J.P. Sniadecki; Broken Pots, Broken Dreams by Maris Gillette; Bored in Heaven, by Kenneth Dean, and my film, 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness. The issue provides a broad look across a range of filmmaking practices and subjects, as well as a sense of how extensively anthropologists have been using film and filmmaking as a means of ethnographic analysis and knowledge production, particularly in the context of contemporary China. My hope for this issue is that it will help spur more conversations about the how anthropological research can think through filmmaking, as a means of research and analysis.
My article, titled "Fieldwork, Film, and the Tourist Gaze: Making 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness" can be downloaded here. A thoughtful review of the film, by Laurie Kain Hart (Haverford College), is available here.
Visit my academia.edu page for a full list of past conference papers and other work.