Xu Ruotao / Huang Xiang / J.P Sniadecki
Somewhere in the space between imagination and reality a hollow city stands in static chaos, preserved in pristine dilapidation by the intimacy of abandonment. During the 2012 Spring Festival three filmmakers travel to Yumen in Gansu Province, China, to capture this so-called ‘ghost town’ using a 16 mm camera. These three outsiders are guided through Yumen by three local women and enter into a fantasy-like exploration of this ruined city, suspended in the fragmentary memories of those who linger on.
What we have filmed is a product of, and inspired by, the dramatization of Chinese society. The real events that are unfolding in China today are already far beyond the artistic imagination; the simple stories of the daily news are elaborate and explosive narratives eagerly consumed by a mass audience.
It’s difficult to say if these kinds of social phenomena are a blessing or a curse for Chinese artists, but we can’t live independently of our environments and ‘background’, these are the tools for painting our vision of the world. The rapid land consumption that China is currently experiencing has been a constant source of inspiration for us and we have tried to document this issue numerous times. The challenge for directors is to bring together the dust-filled devil skies that hover above like Kangbashi New Area and the abandoned city of Yumen and the vacant streets that lie below.
There is a certain danger attached to documenting these sensitive issues, particularly as a director working without either a license or funding under China’s awkward mix of socialism and capitalism. It is impossible to confront reality directly, yet we continue to engage with everyday incredulity. This is art.
Xu Ruotao is an artist and director. His films include Yumen (2013) and Rumination (2009). The latter was nominated Dragon-Tigre Best Film at the 29th Vancouver Film Festival.
Huang Xiang is an artist and director currently living in Beijing. He also works in a variety of other creative fields. His films include Yumenm (2013) and Roast Chicken(2012).
J. P. Sniadecki obtained a PhD in Social Anthropology at Harvard University. His is currently Assistant Professor an Cornel. He began documentary filmmaking in the United States gaining critical acclaim for his documentary film focusing on his work as a prison teacher. He has lived and worked in China for a number of years. His Chinese films include People’s Park (2012), Yellow Bank (2010) and Demolition (2008). His films have been awarded numerous prizes at international film festivals. His 2010 film Foreign Parts observes a vibrant community of immigrants living and working in a hidden enclave of auto shops and junkyards fated for demolition in the shadow of a new baseball stadium in Queens. The film won the Best First Feature Pardo D'oro and the CINE CINEMA Special Jury Prize at Lorcano Film Festival. at Lorcano Film Festival.