Cinematic realism and independent filmmaking in China
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Independent filmmaking in China, with the directors' reiteration of literary and cinematic realism carried on from May Fourth, reflects the nation's social uneasiness triggered by the enlarging division between the enlightenment indenture and the unidirectional modernization project. Resisting the national allegories and Hollywood-style big budget fantasies made by the Fifth Generation, independent filmmakers bring back to the screen the unadorned life of city inhabitants. The meaning of "independent" and "alternative" does not exclusively lie in the production and distribution venues but is galvanized by film directors' perception and cinematic depiction of what constitutes the social realities of contemporary China. The locality of hometown and the corporeality of the filmed subjects help to sustain a legitimate image-space for the socially underrepresented, at a time when the Party co-opts the discourse of nation-state to renew their regime. Directors employ the politics of sexuality, where body is the only thing remaining in their control, to usher in a redefinition of the Party and reassure the agency of Chinese intellectuals who were betrayed during the June Fourth massacre. The exegesis of the independent generation extends to the digital video (DV) filmmakers, whose cinematic language features the increased sense of interrogation between the camera and the characters. For the directors' claims of neither representing the people nor wrestling against the Party, nonetheless, DV films retreat to a safe but enclosed space, in which the aggrandized size of the body on screen displays a fractioned and diminished self cutting off from the outside world and falling short of its full potential. Independent filmmaking in China derives its policy-shaping capacity from its increasing participants (domestic audiences, amateur filmmakers, critics, and scholars) and multiplying operative channels (film funds, online forums, and non-official archives), collectively converting filmmaking from a privilege exclusive to the state apparatus and its elite delegates to a right of self-expression belonging to each individual.