This October, Duke will be hosting Chinese documentary filmmaker Wu Wenguang and three of his fellow documentarians for a two-week residency and the launch of a new digital oral history collection.
Wu Wenguang is one of the founding figures of the Chinese independent documentary film movement. His groundbreaking debut film, Bumming in Beijing (1990), portrayed with unscripted candor the disillusionment of five young Chinese artists in the wake of the Tiananmen Square student protests in 1989.
One of Wu’s recent endeavors is the Memory Project, a wide-ranging documentary history of China’s Great Famine (1958-1961), featuring interviews with thousands of famine survivors. The interviews shine a light on one of modern China’s most traumatic episodes. Tens of millions of Chinese citizens died during the Great Famine years as a result of economic and social policies enacted under Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward campaign. The famine and resulting death toll are often glossed over in official Chinese state history.
Starting in 2010, Wu recruited numerous young filmmakers for the Memory Project, dispatching them to 246 villages across twenty rural provinces. More than 1,220 elderly villagers were interviewed and recorded. These interviews also gave the amateur filmmakers from Wu’s studio a chance to leave the bustling chaos of the cities and reconnect with the history of the their families and their nation.
In 2012, Wu and several of his protégés visited Duke for a series of screenings from the Memory Project. During that trip, he selected Duke’s Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as an appropriate home for the raw footage of the interviews to be preserved. The first batch of interviews, totaling about 1,150 videos, was brought to Duke in the summer of 2013. Over the next several years, the Duke University Libraries will process the footage into a new digital collection for researchers worldwide to access.
Wu, along with fellow Memory Project documentarians Li Xinmin, Zhang Mengqi, and Zou Xueping, will return to Duke this October for a two-week residency and to launch the pilot for this new digital collection. There will be several events and film screenings to celebrate the filmmakers and their ground-breaking work.
Screenings and Events
All events are free and open to the public. Films are in Chinese with English subtitles. Films will be introduced by Duke University professor Guo-Juin Hong and be followed by Q&A discussions with the filmmakers.
Tuesday, October 21, 5:00 p.m.
Panel discussion and reception featuring Ralph Litzinger, Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Women’s Studies and Faculty Director of Global Semester Abroad; Tom Rankin, Director of the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts; and Guo-Juin Hong, Associate Professor of Chinese Literature and Culture, Director of the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image, and Co-Director of the FHI Audiovisualities Lab.
Franklin Humanities Institute Garage, Smith Warehouse (map)
Thursday, October 23, 4:00 p.m.
Reception and short clips with the visiting filmmakers
Perkins Library 217 (map)
Friday, October 24, 7:00 p.m.
Screening of “Trash Village” (2013, 82 mins.) by Zou Xueping
White Lecture Hall, East Campus (map)
Tuesday, October 28
5:00 p.m.: Reception with visiting filmmakers. Thomas Room, Lilly Library, East Campus (map)
7:00 p.m.: Screening of “Self-portrait” (2013, 77 mins.) by Zhang Mengqi. White Lecture Hall, East Campus (map).
Wednesday, October 29, 7:00 p.m.
Screening of “Huamulin, Boy Xiaoqiang” (2013, 76 mins.) by Li Xinmin
Griffith Film Theater, Bryan Center (map)
Film screenings are part of the Cine-East Fall 2014 East Asian Film Series, co-sponsored by the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute, Screen/Society, the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image, and the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. The panel discussion on October 21 is co-sponsored by the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image.