Document Type

Working Paper


From a comparative perspective, this study explores the origins, styles, problems, solutions, and possible future directions of Chinese independent documentary. I argue that Chinese independent (or underground) filmmaking actually started with independent documentary in the late 1980s and that the Chinese embrace of the cinéma vérité and interview styles represents an attempt to resist the propagandist, voice-of-God approach in the official news and documentary programming. However, self-erasure and misconceived objectivity typical of the earlier works engendered problems in documentary filmmaking, and a subsequent self-repositioning in the late 1990s has reclaimed the subjective voice and readjusted the artist's attitude toward their subjects. The call for returning to the personal is further exemplified in the current euphoria for DV works, and the idea of amateur filmmaking once again highlights the connection between independent documentary and its special points of view on ordinary people's lives in a changing society.


David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies

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