Chinese Independent Documentary III

Wu Wenguang and the Folk Memory Project

Friday 31 May 2019, 2pm-7pm

Venue: 50 George Square, G.04 Screening Room

This event is free, but booking is essential. To book, please click HERE.

Knocking on Memory’s Door with the Video Camera. A handful of people took video cameras and went back to their respective villages. They went in search of the old generation that was still living there in dim, stark houses. They went to uncover the memories hidden deep inside them. Each filmmaker had some prior relationship to the village. Some of them were born or grew up there, some still live there, some had never lived in the village but had parents or grandparents who had. For the old people in the village, this was the first time anyone had come with a camera to ask them to open their memory chests. Here was the younger generation, leaping over their parents’ generation– that generation wiped clean of memory- to ask the elders about the past. This meeting may be awkward and uncomfortable but it is also an exciting adventure. Their stories are now documentary films presented in this program. [Wu Wenguang: The Art of Unforgetting: Folk Memory Project]

We are delighted to welcome China’s foremost independent documentary filmmaker back to the University of Edinburgh to present his most recent projects. Join us for an inspiring Friday afternoon of cutting edge documentary in China, insightful lectures, discussions and “meet the artist” conversations over drinks and nibbles. [Natascha Gentz, Director, Confucius Institute for Scotland]


14.00 – 15.30 Film: Investigating my Father (Wu Wenguang)

 15.30 Tea & Coffee

16.00 – 17.00 Presentation: The  Art of Unforgetting: Folk Memory Project

(Wu Wenguang & Zhang Mengqi)

 17.00 Drinks & Canapés

17.30 – 19.00  Film: Self-portrait: Sphex in 47 KM (Zhang Mengqi)

19:00 Drinks reception

About the Presenters

Wu Wenguang is the internationally acknowledged doyen of Chinese independent documentary, producing acclaimed “unofficial” films in China since the late 1980s. In 2005 he created the Caochangdi Workstation as an independent space to focus on oral history and to document individual stories during particular difficult historical periods including the “Three year famine”, the “Great Leap Forward,” the “Land Reform” and the “Cultural Revolution”. This massive project is intended to create an independent folk memory archive, now involving 20 filmmakers, and more than 200 participants going back to their villages for interviews, with over 1500 interviewees from more than 300 villages.

Zhang Mengqi was trained as a dancer and joined Caochangdi as a filmmaker and choreographer in 2009. Her films have been presented at international film festivals in China, Japan and Europe. The film presented in Edinburgh will complete her 8 “self-portrait series”.

About the Films

Investigating My Father

Directed, edited by Wu Wenguang

80 min. /2016

Filmmaker’s words:

My father was a landowner’s son and an ex-Kuomintang Air Force pilot, who remained in mainland China after 1949. For survival, he tried to transform himself from a man of the ‘old society’ to a man of the ‘new society’. As his son, I started investigating his ‘history before 1949’, which he had kept away from me. This film documents the process of my investigation over twenty years.

Self-Portrait: Window in 47 KM

Directed, photographed, edited by: Zhang Mengqi



Filmmaker’s words:

This is the 8th film in my documentary series “47 km.”

An 85-year-old man sits under Mao Zedong’s portrait and, as the sun sets, recalls his revolutionary history in pursuit of “New China.”

Meanwhile, a 15-year-old girl named Fanghong walks through the village with her paintbrush, knocking on the doors of elders’ dark rooms, sitting before them to draw their portraits. She’s like a ray of light illuminating their memories and ruins.

I followed Fanghong, and together we built a window for 47 km village.