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Chinese Independents, Part 1

MUBI Special

MUBI spotlights the groundbreaking documentaries that have recently come out of China. Often producing their work against the will of the state, these filmmakers have taken unimaginable risks in order to tell their stories. The series begins with Three Sisters from leading Chinese documentarian Wang Bing and concludes with Karamay, the harrowing government-buried story of a fire that took the lives of 288 children.


Zhao Liang China, 2015


We close the first part of our series of underground Chinese documentaries with one of the most stunning-looking films to come out of the country, regardless of budget. A big canvas tale of ghost cities and environmental devastation, it uses Dante’s “Divine Comedy” to structure an vision.


Xu Xin China, 2010


A zenith of new Chinese cinema, Xu Xin’s doc confronts the tragic fire that forever altered life in the village of Karamay. Banned in its home country to this day, the scope of this film’s length is carried by its will to listen to the victims’ families with a rare, enveloping patience. Essential.

When the Bough Breaks

Ji Dan China, 2012


Chinese Independents continues with this document of poverty in modern Beijing. Much like the previous films in the series, this is shot on a consumer video camera in the name of breaking all barriers of style in exchange for an intimate proximity with the resilience of its subjects.

Fortune Teller

Xu Tong China, 2010


Our series on documentaries produced independently in China continues with Xu Tong’s remarkable and engrossing portrait of an illegal practitioner of fortune telling. It’s a vocation that takes the film through an unseen side of Chinese society, forming a compassionate portrait of the marginalized.

Queer China, 'Comrade' China

Cui Zi'en China, 2008


We continue our series honoring the humanist documentaries to come from China’s recent independent cinema, often made without government approval, with Queer China, ‘Comrade’ China. This is valiant act of cinema in its excavation of the queer experience in the country’s past, present, and future.

Three Sisters

Wang Bing France, 2012


We’re launching a series on the groundbreaking documentaries, often produced against the will of the state and concerning uncharted struggles, that have recently come out of China. We start with Wang Bing’s patient, provocative, and deeply compassionate portrait of three provincial young sisters.

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