Film Archive

Jahr

A Folk Troupe

Documentary Film
China
2013
62 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Gang Zhao, Cherelle Zheng
Gang Zhao
Qian Ge, Deng Gang
Luo Quan
Lin Yan
Liu Jian
It’s not exactly a life of ease for the travelling showmen. A theatre company of eleven move into a provisional domicile in a garage-like hall right next to a large construction site on the outskirts of Chengdu, a business centre in the southwest of China. Here a special tradition of the Beijing Opera, the Sichuan Opera, has developed over the years. The actors perform a different play every day. From childhood on, they have learned the secrets of the artfully stilted songs and the sophisticated choreographies of changing the elaborate masks for the three- to four-hour performances. Century-old tales are repeated again and again. But life on the road is far from romantic. They are stuck in Chengdu because they have no money for travelling on; bureaucrats are unwilling to issue permissions, the company is caught in internal disputes, and the mood is tense. The audience on their simple wooden chairs are worn-down figures whose furrowed faces indicate a life of deprivation. The contrast to the colourful productions on stage, whose titles, like “In the Land of Plenty”, hold magnificent promises, couldn’t be bigger. The audience may just about be able to afford this kind of travelling opera, but it’s an unmistakeable swan song. Another piece of cultural history about to get lost …

Cornelia Klauß



Prize of the Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique 2013

Cloudy Mountains

Documentary Film
China
2012
85 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Han Lei, Documentary Channel, Shanghai Media Group (SMG)
Zhu Yu
Liu Zhifeng
Han Lei
Shen Hancun
When they sit together slurping noodles after work they like to joke around. They perform imaginary dances and take heart-warming care of an injured bird. The Chinese miners at Lop Nut get fairly good wages by local standards, but they pay a high price. Dust swirls up, turns into clouds that float over the landscape and at last settle on everything like an inch-thick woollen carpet. This asbestos mining region was largely depopulated. It looks like a smoking apocalyptic volcanic landscape. For years the material that is now banned in Europe but supplies an immense demand for housing space in in China has been mined here. While more and more people in China profit from the construction boom, the asbestos workers live in tents right on the grounds. In his debut film, director Zuh Yu precisely exposes the unspeakable conditions in which the workers earn their pay – cut off from the outside world to which they are connected only by mobile phones. The youngest among them has just turned 17. But his focus gradually shifts to the people themselves, their bawdy humour and tough, cool phrases. Their tenacity and determination to keep going turn “Cloudy Mountain” into a great statement, one that addresses the human condition.

Cornelia Klauß



Honorary Mention in the International Competition Documentary Film 2012

Fidaï

Documentary Film
Algeria,
China,
France
2012
83 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Mathieu Mullier, Kafard Films
Damien Ounouri
Matthieu Laclau
Mary Stephen
Damien Ounouri, Linda Amiri
Li Dan-Feng
When the Algerian War for Independence broke out in 1954, El Hadi, the protagonist of this cleverly constructed film about killing in times of war, had just turned 14. Six years later he was a Fidai, a fighter for the Algerian National Liberation Front FLN by whose orders he assassinated two people in Paris. El Hadi was a volunteer, his motive was simple: colonialism is intolerable. 50 years later director Damien Ounouri takes up his uncle El Hadi’s story again and together they embark on a journey into his past. Much has been buried, but the memories begin to return when they visit the sites of the Paris assassinations, where the director presses a gun into his uncle’s hand: I am your target. Show me how you shot him. El Hadi takes the pistol, which at first feels as alien as his memories, loads it and once more lives through the pivotal moments. Follow the victim, hold the pistol to his head, pull the trigger, run away. In this moment he is not aiming at his nephew but at the traitor who was sentenced to death by his superior officers. The situation may be contrived, El Hadi’s feelings aren’t. This filmic method works like a time machine which prepares the ground for the essential question: did you do the right thing then? Damien Ounouri respectfully follows up on this question posed to his uncle, embedded in the historic context of the anti-colonial movement of the 1960s and its countless victims. There is not even a hint of accusation or justification. Only the serious work of remembrance.

Matthias Heeder