Standing Up for Indie Film in China

In July, Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth in the action-packed series of Hollywood films about trucks turning into giant robots to save the world, became the first film to sell more than $300 million in tickets at China’s box office.

Hollywood’s drive to crack the Chinese market is stronger than ever, and it is no shock that Chinese-language films mimicking the American studios’ fare are being made at a rapid clip. But it is good to know that the fight hasn’t left China’s scrappy independent film scene—which, in recent years, has faced nothing but trouble from official quarters—and that there are voices of conscience around the world willing to stand up for freedom of expression on the screen.

Last weekend, in the sleepy village of Songzhuang southeast of the capital, where artists making films outside China’s approved channels have been congregating for over a decade at the Beijing Independent Film Festival—authorities finally shut them down completely.

In reaction, Shelly Kraicer, a Chinese film scholar and film festival programmer from Canada, circulated a statement in support of BIFF and its founder, Li Xianting.

The statement, which follows below, was co-signed by leading members of the independent film festival community around the world.

Statement in Support of the Beijing Independent Film Festival and the Li Xianting Film Fund:

As independent film festivals and supporters of independent cinema, we have learned with deep concern that the Chinese government and police authorities have prevented the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival based in Songzhuang, Beijing, from opening last weekend, August 23rd, and detained its organizers Wang Hongwei, Fan Rong, and Li Xianting for several hours. We are also deeply concerned that BIFF’s sponsoring organization, the Li Xianting Film Fund, has been raided, and the entirety of its invaluable archives of independent Chinese cinema have reportedly been confiscated.

We call upon the relevant Chinese authorities to permit the Beijing Independent Film Festival to pursue its mission to nurture and exhibit a full range of alternative cinematic voices in China, to allow the festival to operate without interference, and to allow the Li Xianting Film Fund to continue its vital mission of archiving and supporting independent Chinese filmmakers.

August 25, 2014


Berlinale Forum, Christoph Terhechte, Head

Curtas Vila do Conde International Film Festival, Nuno Rodrigues, Miguel Dias, Mário Micaelo, co-directors

dGenerate Films, Karin Chien, President

DocLisboa, Cíntia Gil and Augusto M. Seabra, co-directors

Film Society of Lincoln Center, Dennis Lim, Director of Programming

Göteborg International Film Festival, Jonas Holmberg, Artistic Director

Marit Kapla, Head of Programme

Hong Kong Independent Film Festival, Vincent Chui, Artistic Director

Images Cinema, Doug Jones, Executive Director

International Film Festival Rotterdam, Rutger Wolfson, Festival Director

Lima Independiente Festival Internacional de Cine, Alonso Izaguirre, Director

New York Film Festival, Kent Jones, Director

Sydney Film Festival, Nashen Moodley, Festival Director

Taiwan International Documentary Festival, Wood Lin, Program Director

The Association of Documentary Filmakers of Chile, Amalric de Pontcharra

Torino Film Festival, Emanuela Martini, Director

Tromsø International Film Festival, Martha Otte, Festival Director

Tokyo Filmex, Shozo Ichiyama, Program Director

True/False Film Fest, Paul Sturtz and David Wilson, co-directors

Visions du Réel, Luciano Barisone, Director