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Chinese Independent Documentary Series: The Other Bank

Director Jiang Yue's 1994 documentary follows a group of young Chinese actors and their unusual experiences in Chinese theatre.

February 7, 2008 7:00pm to 10:00pm

This is a documentary about a group of unusual actors, their training, their groundbreaking performances in contemporary Chinese theater, and what happened to them. In early spring of 1993, independent artist Mou Sen was invited by the Actors Exchange and Training Center of the Beijing Film Academy to take charge of an intensive, short-term performance workshop. More than thirty high school graduates from all over the country attended the workshop. Fourteen of them, who stay till the end of the training, performed The Other Bank: A Chinese Grammatical Discussion, a play written by Gao Xingjian (Nobel Prize Winner, 2000) and Yu Jian. The seven performances by the fourteen students stunned Beijing’s artistic and intellectual circles. These young actors were greeted with applause, flowers, and tears. The show was over. But where would these fourteen young people go? They chose to stay in Beijing. The reality they encountered was cruel. The dreams in the classrooms were broken. In the end, all the young actors left Beijing one after another. One student brought back two actor friends to his remote village in Hebei Province where he staged a theater piece they wrote together. The Black Bird that had Flown Over the Paradise. The filmmaker’s critical decision to shift his focus from the artists to the young peasant performers marks an important turning point at which independent Chinese documentary became critical of its intellectual advantage and instead tried to become closer to the grassroots.

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