Mandarin with English subtitles
CHINA’S VAN GOGHS
By Yu Haibo and Yu Tianqi Kiki
Zhao Xiaoyong has produced thousands of paintings, but does not consider himself a real artist. He is one of thousands of peasants-turned-painters in Dafen Village, China, who churn out the millions of copies of Western masterpieces found all around the world, from high street chains like Walmart to boutique gift shops. But Zhao is not satisfied with mechanically reproducing works of art from images in photographs and books. Obsessed with Van Gogh’s genius, he yearns to see the originals. China’s Van Goghs follows Zhao on his pilgrimage to discover the artist for himself—he traces Van Gogh’s footsteps through Amsterdam, Paris, Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, and encounters his paintings for the first time at the Van Gogh Museum. Struck by the powerful aura of the works, his life is changed in unexpected ways.
Like Zhao, many of Dafen’s painters live, work, marry and raise children under Van Gogh’s constant gaze. But the legend of Van Gogh represents more than just a livelihood to them: his art and life is emblematic of their own dreams for self-actualisation. Rising above the “Made in China” bias, the film surfaces the cycles of exploitation and poverty that entrench workers like Zhao who desire authenticity. The trip ultimately inspires a return to his ancestral village to find his own vision, and a source of creativity from within.
China’s Van Goghs had its world premiere at the 29th IDFA (Netherlands, 2016). It has been screened at festivals such as the 47th Visions du Réel (Switzerland, 2016) and the 14th Docudays UA (Ukraine, 2016). It won Best Documentary (International Co-production) at the 7th Beijing International Film Festival (China, 2017).
Yu Haibo (b. 1962) is one of China’s most prominent documentary photographers, and is considered a pioneer of surrealist photography in the country. His photo story China Dafen Oil Painting Village won the 49th World Press Photography Contest in 2006. Today, he is the Chief Photo Editor of the Shenzen Economic Daily and director of the Shenzen Professional Photographers Association. China’s Van Goghs is his first feature film.
Yu Tianqi Kiki is an Associate Professor of Film and Screen Studies at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China), and a producer at Century Image Media Ltd. She is also the co-founder of DSL CineMag, a magazine that promotes Chinese New Cinema, and has a forthcoming book titled ‘My’ Self on Camera: First Person Documentary Practice in Twenty-first Century China (2017) published by the University of Edinburgh Press.
Mandarin with English subtitles
Approximately 80 minutes
Rating / Age Limit
- Rating: PG
- No admission for infants in arms.
- Admission is subject to tickets and valid IDs produced at the entrance.
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