In development

Running time: ’90 – ’52

Chinese Independent Cinema
a new documentary project by Leonardo Cinieri Lombroso

Chinese independent cinema is dying, anyhow Chinese independent directors refuse to go to hell (or in paradise). They want to live and continuing shoot in China. How?

RECORDING CHINA is a portrait of three promising talents of Chinese cinema that are seeking new ways to write, shoot and to be heard, while China’s dynamism doesn’t stop and capitalism is at its peak. RECORDING CHINA is a poetic investigation about a generation who desires to leave a mark and make a difference inside the booming cultural industry. Will this generation cross the line or will they wear a chameleon skin to adapt and survive?


RECORDING CHINA is a portrait of the youngest generation of film and documentary directors. Its mission is to give a new perspective of Chinese cinema culture. We will silently listen to their voices in their houses and when they work. We will walk with them into Beijing‘s empty suburbs and in the international movie festival‘s which are spreading around the country. We want to describe China’s dynamism, where colors bloom in people‘s clothes, while the fog thickly swirls through piles of high-rise buildings. We want to experience different fragments that stem from collectivism and arrive in a new self-expression. Wu Wenguang, a 61 years man with tiny little eyes and big glasses is the so-called Father of the independent documentary. He started his works in the middle of the 80’s. At that time Zou Xueping was just a child from the countryside, now she‘s his most talented pupil. Today Wu Wenguang lives in a small and isolated village at 40 km from Beijing where, in his house, he leads directing and editing workshops. His students are young directors and his lessons include meditation and gym exercise to reawaken their souls. The question he obsessively repeats is: why do we shoot documentaries? Zou Xueping now lives in Shanghai, teaches art for kids to pay the bills, plays theatrical performances that combine dance with the need to express herself and spends the remainder of her time editing her latest documentary. Wu Wenguang’s question still echoes in her ears. Her creative mission is to bring back historical memories and family experiences to face our present with consciousness. Rong Guang Rong uses music in order to create contrast in his art-work. He mixes language of documentary, animation and creates his personal experimental filmmaking. He was born in the countryside, far from technology and trendy coffee bars. Anyhow he got used to them really soon, and today he is questioning the limit between internet and reality. Digital devices are always in his hands: tools to be alone, but also to communicate. Bi Gan belongs to the same generation. As Lin Ke, he was born when listening to rock music was pretty common in China. His ordinary life is between his hometown in rural China: the billiard table and too many cigarettes. But we find him also in his Beijing skyscraper’s loft talking on the phone with his producer while high budget actresses from his newest movie are waiting. His movies mingle together different realities in a hybrid form of fiction and documentary that gave life to a new way to look at China. He‘s got the courage to define himself independent from the society; he‘s got 41min long shot on his feature film and short poems on his laptop. He isn‘t scared to cross international red carpets and seat next to Jia Zhangke, the founding father of Chinese Independent cinema.


From a cultural point of view, China is experiencing a challenging moment: movie directors are experiencing the new thrill of capitalism, art galleries look every day more and more like shopping malls and independent film festivals have been shot down. The implementation of China‘s Film Industry Promotion Law of 2016 emphasized the red line that a movie director cannot cross, in and outside China. New promises of Chinese independent cinema find now themselves in a point of no return: will the new flourishing market‘s opportunity contaminate their style or will they create unexpected and innovative ways to adapt? Last but not least, will Chinese independent cinema survive?


Today new generations have been defined selfish, pragmatic and extremely egocentric. It may sound contradictory, but this can also mean creativity, positive energy and taking action. Contrarily from the previous generation, they take for granted international travels, western beers and digital devices. They incarnate the need to realize their personalities and being strongly focused on the present, dealing with consumerism and individualization. Young Chinese directors experience the incredible boost of China‘s internal market due to the decentralization plan established by the government. Chinese young filmmakers are encouraged by the Film Industry Promotion Law‘s implementation that made easier the way to get the permission to produce and shoot. At the same time, without the License for Public Projection of Films, one cannot participate in any festival, in China or abroad, and the movie is condemned to be ignored. We are at the beginning of a new era in China: while collectivism is fading the new generation is the only key factor to investigate the cultural and social development of today’s China. We are at the beginning of a new era in China: while collectivism is fading the new generation is the only key factor to investigate the cultural and social development of today’s China.


The ongoing overlap of the three directors lives, the archive material and our footage of today’s China will give the rhythm to the documentary. The editing of today’s footage and the archive from the 80‘s and 90‘s will show the impressive differences between the two epochs. The archive material will be selected in order to create a continuous flux where fiction, documentary, and reality are at the same time in front of us. We will shoot close-ups and personal moments of our characters, we will avoid talking heads interviews, but we will film intimate speeches of the protagonists straight in front of the camera. We will use the power of images and sound to give the feeling of the contrast between the frenetic society and the little intimate word of the young artists. We will catch the essence of their personalities while observing them in their life and during the interactions with other people. We’ll use only natural lights, trying to give a realistic description that’s as faithful as possible.


RECORDING CHINA can be considered the continuation of my personal and professional path. My previous documentaries “Through Korean Cinema” (2010) and “Southeast Asian Cinema – When the Rooster Crows” (2014), dealt with the art-house cinema and independent productions in South Korea and in South East Asia. During the filming of my last work I had the chance to get in touch with the Southeast Asia cultures, arduously divided between tradition and modernity. This has helped me to comprehend and appreciate the subtle poetic language of Asian filmmaking, a still little-known cinema, especially in the West. I interviewed independent directors and film critics in Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand: they all have both fought and convinced with dialogue the censors in charge for their countries restrictions and, after years, they have managed to have more freedom of expression. Researching and shooting in these countries gave me the opportunity to better understand Asian independent cinema and surely prepared me for investigating the Chinese independent cinema, which is even more multifarious. Filming RECORDING CHINA today, a few months after the promulgation of the new law on Cinema, can be very significant because of the unforeseeable consequences of this change. In this moment China is strongly focusing on nationalism and politically shutting itself away, but at the same time, this huge and important country is increasingly imposing itself as a world imperialist identity. Being in China at such a historical landmark, with the independent filmmakers as eyewitnesses, will give us a special clue to understanding China yesterday and today. This documentary will also be a personal and intimate journey that I will try to grasp from the eyes of each of the directors I will meet.

State of production

I record China is at the first stage of research. We have self manage to go to New York, in the occasion of the first edition CINEMA ON THE EDGE: the best of the Beijing Independent Film Festival (2015) and we started to collect fundamental voices related to Chinese Independent Cinema (Zhang Zhen, Angela Zito, Li Daoxin, Shelly Kraicer, Ying Qian) in order to have a broader and deeper understanding of history of Chinese cinema, and consequently Chinese independent cinema. We have also met and interviewed Chinese directors and producer, among them Zhu Rikun, Huang Ji, Yang Lina, Wang Wo, Zou Xueping, in order to have a first approach and to exchange our views on this topic.

Status: I’m looking for production and co-production, investors, sponsor.  I have already two trailers of ‘3 and ‘6 minutes.

Production Plan: I’m planning to shoot in China in 2018

The project was selected in :

Dallo sviluppo al pitching – Macma Italy

Crossing Borders 2017