Migrating Cinema

Yi Cui, China/Canada

Migrating Cinema

From 2012 to 2017, Yi Cui was engaged with two film projects, Of Shadows (2016) on traditional Chinese shadow theatre, and the other, Screening from Within (2018) on travelling film projection in the western rural China.

These traveling cinema projects together with the two pieces in this exhibition look into the relationships between the movement of screens across geographical and cultural spaces and the new meanings generated.

Interesting parallels emerge between the mythological origin of Chinese shadow theatre and the contemporary practice of migrating cinema. Films from the early years of the People’s Republic of China and traditional shadow plays carry local and national authorities’ voices charged with educating and morally uplifting the masses.

The shadow theatres’ puppet players and the film projectionists’ performance reshape the films, creating discrepancies, mis-readings, and misinterpretations. Spontaneity opens up negotiation between the masses and the political authorities. These interventions channel the needs and voices of the mass audience into production and reception processes. They hold the potential to subvert the performances' original intentions. 

Cinema’s meandering across geographic and cultural spaces is open-ended. As soon as it arrives, it departs. In these perpetually shifting spaces, the local voice speaks and is heard.

Through the Looking Glass
Yi Cui (China,  2017) 14 min. Color

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In Golok in a pasture in the heights of Tibet, monks and herdsmen organize a small festival to present their own amateur films This celebration unites the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, many of whom face long journeys on foot or horseback to participate. When night falls, the darkness turns on projected images and all the faces are concentrated, transfixed, on the big screen that sways in the wind. The silence is broken only by the murmuring of the monks or the barking of a dog, until the tremor of a laugh is heard and spreads among the audience. Delaying the moment in which she will show us what the gathered crowd is watching, the director takes us to the source of pleasure that characterised the origins of cinema, when the seventh art still preserved the luminous lightness of its beginnings as fair entertainment.

Yi Cui  (China, 2017 ) HD, 13min
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Late Summer captures a centuries-old Beijing theatre in its incarnation as a modern-day transient space.

Yi Cui

Yi Cui is a filmmaker from China and assistant professor of Film and Video at Colgate University.  Using a process-driven methodology, her work probes how moving images interact with other types of performance. Yi’s feature-length experimental documentary Of Shadows—a haunting portrait of traditional folk Chinese shadow theatre against the backdrop of constant transition— received the Libraries’ Award at Cinéma du Réel in Paris. Her recent short Late Summer received the Grand Prize at Oberhausen International Short Film Festival and the Best Short Film Award from the American Society for Visual Anthropology. A number of Yi’s other works have toured internationally.