bearing witness
Chinese Urban Cinema in the Era of
‘‘Transformation’’ (Zhuanxing)
zhang zhen
ince the early 1990s the landscape of film culture in Mainland China
has been radically reshaped. While the state-owned studios have been
faced with the dire reality of financial and ideological constraints exac-
erbated by the top-down institutional reforms of the mid-decade, there
has emerged both within and outside of the studio walls an alternative or
‘‘minor cinema.’’∞ This cinema is largely represented by what my colleagues
and I call the ‘‘Urban Generation’’ filmmakers and their supporters, followers,
and fans.
The term ‘‘Urban Generation’’ was coined for a film program presented in
spring 2001 at the Walter Reade Theater at New York’s Lincoln Center for the
Performing Arts. The program showcased an array of works centered on the
experience of urbanization by young filmmakers who emerged in the shadow
both of the international fame of the Fifth Generation directors and of the
suppressed democracy movement in 1989.≤ The term also refers to a film
practice caught in the dynamic tension between ‘‘deterritorialization’’ by the
state or commercial mainstream (both domestic and transnational) and the
constant ‘‘reterritorialization’’ by the same forces that have alienated or mar-
ginalized it. The ‘‘minor’’ status of this new urban cinema is marked on one
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