All posts filed under: Film

The Poetic, Timeless Solitude In Tahir Hamut’s “Beautiful Lover”

One of the driving forces in the Uyghur film scene is a filmmaker and poet named Tahir Hamut. A graduate of Beijing’s National Minorities University, Tahir began his academic career as one of the premier Uyghur critics of Western Modernist literature. Throughout the 1990s he, along with Perhat Tursun and others, were the leaders of a Uyghur avant garde poetry movement. Then in 1998 he turned his attention to filmmaking. Now Tahir serves as one of the principle instructors in the Film Department of the Xinjiang Arts Institute in Ürümchi. Tahir’s first films were feature-length fiction films. Although in many ways straightforward romantic dramas, even in this early work we see flashes of ethnographic detail that give us hints of Tahir’s previous life as a poet and the way he was beginning to translate that vision into visual form. Tahir is a brilliant poet. His 1998 poem “Returning to Kashgar” is punctuated by a haunting imagery that tackles both the timelessness of loneliness and disillusionment of youth. It feels both forever contemporary and particular to …

The Edge of the Bazaar, A Documentary About Uyghur Rural Life

One of the emerging trends among young Uyghur film directors is a new attention to documentary filmmaking. This approach has long been a part of Uyghur cinema, but previously it was often part of a larger public relations presentation sponsored by the Chinese Culture Ministry. These new documentary short films are independently produced on limited budgets by young filmmakers who have an intimate knowledge of their subjects. Part of the new emphasis on documentaries is due to the increasing affordability of cameras, lenses, and digital editing software. Another element is the way the expanding Uyghur and Chinese Internet has made forms of international and national documentary – from Werner Herzog and Lucien Castaing-Taylor to Wu Wenguang and the New Chinese Documentary Film Movement – more accessible to film students in Xinjiang. But perhaps an even more important factor is the way students from the rural countryside are seeing more and more of the way-of-life they grew up around vanish before their eyes. It was these elements that prompted the young student filmmakers Abdukadir Upur and Dilmurat Tohti to …

“Lift” and the Future of Uyghur Film

When Memetjan Semet first came to Urumchi he remembers being shocked at how isolated everyone felt from each other. For the first time in his life he didn’t have his family and childhood friends to lean on for support. He also noticed that he wasn’t alone in this condition. No one in the big city seemed to care about others around themselves. Instead, people kept their heads down. They focused on their smart phones, chatted with friends in the virtual world, and ignored the difficulties of people nearby. The problems of strangers were not something they felt they needed to be concerned with. One time while waiting for an elevator in a large office building in the Uyghur section of the city, he noticed a disabled woman hobbling down the hallway. No one held the doors for her. Everyone pushed her to the side while getting on and off of the elevator. Over the next few minutes he watched her grow more and more defeated. Eventually she gave up, and began the long painful process …

Review of the Uyghur blockbuster “Money on the Road”

Update: A full-length version of Money on the Road (featuring Chinese and English subtitles) is now available to view for free on Youtube. In the autumn of 2014, just in time for the long ten-day break for the National Holiday and Qurban, the Uyghur comedian Abdukerim Abliz released his first full-length Uyghur language feature film (with Chinese and English subtitles). The comedy titled Money on the Road (or This is What Money Does from the Uyghur, and, Running with Money on the Road from the Chinese) features an ensemble cast of stars, including a cameo by the famous singer Abdulla. It follows the misadventures of three Uyghur farmers who come to the city as migrant workers to participate in Ürümchi’s urban renewal. Abdullah, who plays the role of a construction manager named Musa in charge of the demolition of degrading one-story housing on the south side of Ürümchi’s ring road, invites the three down-on-their-luck farmers from his home town near Kucha to come to the city and work for cash. Although they arrive in the city with “hungry-eyes” as …