Promotional image, Nuandong, for the event: Chinese Independent Film Festivals: Self-Legitimation and Consecrations -

Contemporary China Centre talk

This talk focuses on three major Chinese independent film festivals, the China Independent Film Festival (CIFF), the Yunnan Multi-Culture Visual Festival (Yunfest) and the Beijing Independent Film Festival (BIFF), which not only showcase and promote Chinese independent films, but also facilitate exchanges between independent filmmakers.

These festivals generated much social and academic discourse on Chinese independent films from early 2000s to mid-2010s and used to be the main platforms for public audiences to watch independent films which do not have legal domestic distribution status.

Following the dissemination of independent films, issues such as the violation of conventional documentary ethics, low quality DV image, ambiguous authorship, undefined film license have stirred controversies. Additionally, the legitimacy of independent film festivals has also been questioned due to successive forced shut-downs and interruptions by local authorities. Drawing from ethnography from extensive fieldwork, this talk scrutinises a set of practices of independent film festivals including film distributing, awarding, reviewing, publishing and archiving. It will highlight the symbolic implications for the practices of independent films and these film festivals per se.

Drawing on Bourdieu’s concept of cultural production, Dr Lydia Wu will demonstrate how independent film festivals establish a set of relationships within a wider cultural field to engage in the production of social value of independent films by adopting certain practices consistent with cultural beliefs and norms of the prevailing cultural production system. Such practices create artistic valorisation for the consecration of independent films, which in turn reinforces their legitimacy. The research also reveals an inherent paradox: cultural and social accounts of independent film festivals form what counts as independent films, whereas the independent films are averse to any accounts that define and shape them for sustaining and protecting independence.

All pictures reproduced with permission from the speaker.


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