Chinese Documentaries at Open City (London)

The Iron Ministry 600x400

London’s biggest celebration of documentary filmmaking festival is already in full swing, having started on Tuesday and ending this Sunday 21 June.

Open City Documentary Festival continues nurturing the art of documentary, with an exciting array of films from over 25 countries and a special spotlight on China this year. Be sure to check out the following documentaries, each one offering its own unique and diverse perspective on a remarkable country and society in a state of flux & change.

UK Premiere: Beijing Ants by Ryuji Otsuka, (2014, China) screening at Regent Street Cinema on Friday June 19, 18.15. 

Along with London, Beijing is now one of the most expensive cities in the world to rent property. The rising prices are affecting residents all over the city, including the film’s director, Ryuji Otsuka, his wife and their small child. With the help of a handheld video camera and hidden cameras, Otsuka has created a personal diary that begins at the moment when he must search for a new flat after his rent was suddenly and significantly raised. From this has emerged an immediate, spontaneous testimony about everyday situations that can change easily into acute conflicts – not only due to financial pressure, but also because of the ruthless approach of landlords and indifferent police.


UK Premiere: On The Rim of The Sky by Hongjie Xu (2014, China/Germany) screening at Picturehouse Central on Sunday June 21, 15.30 & followed by Q&A with director Hongjie Xu.

Gulu Village, an isolated idyll on the edge of a cliff in China’s Sichuan province, is home to substitute teacher Shen and his beloved school. Despite his substitute title, Shen has taught at the school for over 26 years. When a volunteer teacher arrives, with utopian visions and revolutionary ideas, Shen’s world is turned upside down. The two men clash over what is best for the school and begin a battle to undermine and expose each other. On the Rim of the Sky captures the epic confrontation between outsider versus insider, tradition versus new ideas and youth versus experience.

The Iron Ministry by J.P. Sniadecki (2014, China/United States) screening at the ICA on Sunday June 21, 17.00

Award-winning American documentary filmmaker J.P. Sniadecki (Foreign Parts, Peoples Park) filmed for over three years on China’s railways, tracing the vast interiors of a country on the move. Scores of rail journeys come together into one, capturing the thrills and anxieties of social and technological transformation. Combining observational cinema and the immersive approach of the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab, of which Sniadecki is a member, The Iron Ministry immerses audiences in fleeting relationships and uneasy encounters between humans and machines on what will soon be the world’s largest railway network.

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