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Pingyao Journal: China’s Newest Film Festival Tests the Limits of Independence

Agang Yargyi, a Tibetan filmmaker who traveled from the western province of Sichuan to attend, expressed admiration for Mr. Feng’s choice of a historical subject, calling it “very daring.”

Mr. Agang, 27, has made three short films, including one, “Dream,” that played in film festivals in Finland and Washington. He described the challenges facing filmmakers, heightened in his case by his ethnic ties to a sometimes restive region. He cannot get a visa, for example, to accompany his films on the festival circuit.

“China is a country that doesn’t like to review its history,” he said.

And yet China’s troubled history is inescapable.

Pingyao’s historical center, a protected Unesco heritage site, dates back 2,700 years. Its 30-foot walls enclose evocative narrow streets and courtyards hidden behind worn wooden doors. Many structures have been neatly restored, catering to the millions of tourists drawn to one of China’s last unspoiled old cities.


The movie “Youth” premiered at the Pingyao festival. Credit Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

Mr. Jia chose Pingyao because it is near his hometown; one of his films, “Platform,” takes place there and includes an encounter between two characters on the ramparts of the city’s walls. That film was about a theater troupe in the wake of the Cultural Revolution, which ravaged the country’s cultural elite.

The only cinema in Pingyao’s old city, ironically, was a modern addition, built in 1965, just before the Communist leader Mao Zedong set the Cultural Revolution in motion. The cinema closed in 2003, but reopened last year as a museum. A red banner on the building declares, “Long Live Great Leader Chairman Mao.”

The festival had the financial support of the regional government, which hopes to attract still more visitors.

Opening night drew more than 1,500 people, according to organizers. Fans pressed the barricades framing the red carpets to snap photographs of China’s biggest stars.

Source: NYT > World

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