Tango with the global, national, and local : new multi-functional organizations in the Chinese independent documentary ecosystem
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Compared to the early days of China’s New Documentary Movement in the 1990s, Chinese independent documentary in the past decade has become more diverse in topic and style, thanks to technologies such as digital video cameras and the internet. Independent documentaries capture a fast-changing China in progress, and have thus drawn scholarly attention from cultural or social studies perspectives. However, industrial development in the past decade has often been neglected in favor of textual analysis of films. Since the marketization of independent documentaries in the 1990s was mainly through international film festivals, and a domestic industry has been lacking, it is easy to assume that Chinese independent documentarians today still have to follow the same path as their counterparts in the 1990s. However, my research on the Chinese independent documentary scene in Beijing in 2009 showed me a picture of a burgeoning domestic industry for independent documentaries, with a handful of newly emerged multi-functional independent film organizations practicing production, distribution and exhibition. Since a real industry has not yet formed, I use “ecosystem” instead of “industry” in the context of Chinese independent documentary. This study compares three representative organizations which are different from each other in nature and emphases, from their birth and evolution to their work and strategies. I argue that these organizations have created new possibilities and opportunities for today’s Chinese independent documentaries, through their different strategies in balancing themselves in a three-legged system of the global, national and local forces and resources.