Screen/Society--Cine-East: East Asian Film series--"People's Park" with director J.P. Sniadecki
(Libbie Dina Cohn and J.P. Sniadecki, 2012, 78 min, USA/China, in Sichuanese and Mandarin Chinese, Color, Digital)
-- Introduced by Prof. Eileen Cheng-yin Chow (AMES)
-- Q&A to follow with director J.P. Sniadecki
“A walk through the park like no other, this brilliantly joyous conceptual documentary takes the vivid reality of an urban park: People’s Park in Chengdu, Sichuan, and, with a pure kind of cinema magic, makes it more real than real. Directors Libbie Cohn and J.P. Sniadecki use an utterly unique and perfectly apposite method of filming: they shoot their tour of the park in one continuous 75-minute long tracking shot. No cuts, no edits: the film starts, it rolls, it stops. Sounds simple, but in the completely uncontrolled context of a crowded Chinese public space, their work required meticulous preparation and rigorous execution to achieve what looks like a spontaneous result. Their camera, as it pans side to side and glides relentlessly forward, catches hundreds of Chinese urbanites out for fun, relaxation, socializing and freedom: eating, strolling, singing, practicing calligraphy, dancing (to various, surprising beats) and watching each other. And being watched (by us) in a way that, though it may start out with what feels like unadorned observation, slowly gathers a kind of ecstatic, trance-like groove, building to a rapturous climax, as people, movement, music, image and sound dance together: this is as close to pure pleasure as cinema can provide.
The soundscape is rich, complex and carefully manufactured, as is the preternaturally smooth movement of the camera, again the result of painstaking preparation and post-production. The result is something extraordinary: a documentary re-creation of reality, or rather a production of something super-real, that activates our sympathetic gaze and ecstatic participation.”
-- Shelly Kracier, Vancouver International Film Festival
"A provocative example of pure cinema and the most dynamic exploration of the cinematic time-space continuum I’ve seen since The Clock." -- J. Hoberman
"At every turn People's Park captures something ineffable—everyday life transformed into cinema." -- Scott Foundas, The Village Voice
About the Filmmaker:
J.P. Sniadecki was born on a goat farm in Michigan, grew up in the rustbelt of Northern Indiana, and has lived and worked for several years in China. A filmmaker and Assistant Professor of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University, he produces work at the intersection of cinema and ethnography.
His films screen at festivals such as the Berlinale, the New York Film Festival, and Edinburgh International Film Festival, and have received several awards, including the Joris Ivens Award at Cinema du Reel for Chaiqian/Demolition (2008), a Jury Award at FICUNAM for Yumen (2013), as well as a Golden Leopard and a Special Jury Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival for Foreign Parts (2010), co-directed with Verena Paravel.
His most recent documentary, People’s Park (2012) co-directed with Libbie Cohn, won the Best Anthropological Film award at Festival dei Popoli and Best Cinematography award at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and had its New York City premiere at New Directors/New Films.
His filmography includes: Yumen (2013), People’s Park (2012), Foreign Parts (2010), The Yellow Bank (2010), Chaiqian/Demolition (2008), and Songhua (2007). He is also founder of Emergent Visions, a film series that screens new independent cinema from China.
Cost: Free and open to the public
Sponsors: The Asian/Pacific Studies Institute (APSI), the Program in the Arts of the Moving Image (AMI) and the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES)