Chinese alternative documentary festival continues

June 2007 -

In April 2007, in Yunnan, South China, the third Yunfest was held: an international documentary festival that provides a platform for the growing documentary world. The festival has various parts, varying from a competition for Chinese filmmakers, a youth forum and a social visual education programme to visual anthropology.


Still from Bimoji van Yang Riu

This year the festival was forced to limit its activities to the competition for Chinese work and showing international documentaries, with contributions from IDFA and Holland Film. The organisers, one of which was the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, a provincial department of the national think tank, were informed by the local authorities that the festival could not be held in Kunming. They subsequently decided to hold the festival in the nearby village of Dali. The number of visitors plummeted: from the original ten thousand only a few hundred remained.

"What is most important is the fact that the festival was able to proceed," says organiser Yang Kun. "It may be about the content of the work," he said, although he did not respond to the question of what was so sensitive. Yang Kun commented that the striking thing about 2007 is that young filmmakers are opting more often for personal subjects, such as the son of a mineworker who recorded his family's history in Sanlidong. The organisation preferred such work over that from makers who, according to Yang Kun, place special focus on huge political issues in an attempt to be noticed by the international festivals.

The festival will return yet again in 2009. To avoid the problems encountered this year, the organisation wants to devote more attention to communication with the authorities. "The festival is not doing anything that is illegal. We do our best to be as transparent as possible in what we do," says Yang Kun. In any event, a selection from the Yunfest will be shown in the fall of 2007 in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.