Changing China: Chinese Independent Documentary Festival

By Jia Xie


A Chinese documentary film festival sponsored by the New Initiative Funding from the College of Social Sciences launched on 23rd and 24th October 2015. The festival covered topics such as arts and youth culture in the 1980s; the LGBT movement; women in China; and village life – topics which were mostly marginalized by the mainstream media and remain unfamiliar to many. Supported by Caochangdi Workstation, an independent artist centre in Beijing, and directors Fan Popo and Masamojo, five documentaries were shown during the two-day event, including 1) Bumming in Beijing: The Last Dreamers (Director Wu Wenguang, 1990), 2) Mama Rainbow (Director Fan Popo, 2012), 3) A Straight Journey: Days and Nights in their Kingdom (Director Masamojo 2015), 4) The village self-governance (CCD Worksstation, 2005) and 5) Self-Portrait with Three Women (Director Zhang Mengqi,2010).


I, as the organizer, also invited three keynote speakers from different departments and universities to give presentations on issues relevant to the festival. Wang Yuan, a PhD student in the Music Department at the University of Glasgow, gave a talk on rock music in China since the 1980s. Zhou Tianyang from the University of Sussex shared findings of his first-hand research of interviewing LGBT people living in China. Zhu Jing from the University of Edinburgh gave a presentation on visual representations of minority groups in southwest China. These postgraduates come from different colleges and universities and do research on contemporary China and culture studies. The rationale for the event was to bring them together to present their research, and to get feedback from a multicultural and interdisciplinary audience.


There were more than 50 students and researchers present at the event, both from universities and other institutions. The feedback was that for many it was the first time learning about and gaining a better understanding of rural China, the experiences of LGBT people, and avant-garde and subcultures in China through independent documentaries. The participants took part in discussions both during the sessions as well as more informally over lunch – they shared comments and questions about the documentaries, and contributed to the event greatly.


An event blog was set up to record the whole process and store all data about this festival, which also contributes to the planning of relevant projects in the future. You can find further details and links here.

For further information please contact Jia Xie at