Singer Not the Song: A Film by Joewi Verhoeven


Singer Not the Song is Joewi Verhoeven’s beautifully made graduation film from Beijing, China. It tells the story of a young songwriter who finds an unexpected connection to a famous dead pop star. Liang Ming plays the lead role with quiet, building emotion. I enjoy the way this filmmaker mixes everyday observations of life in Beijing with an outlandishly melodramatic storyline.

1966 Chinese Nuclear Testing Film


This is a Chinese propaganda film from 1966 about the communist country’s first nuclear weapons tests starting in 1964. The film shows the preparation of the testing area and the participation of the scientists and workers organized for the event which shocked the world. The soundtrack features a complete English translation of the narration which is delivered in a rather deadpan fashion, contrasting with the obvious enthusiasm of the original Chinese narrator.

ChinaNuclear3Most interesting to me in nuclear testing documentaries, both from the communist and democratic worlds of the mid-twentieth century, is the willingness of researchers to subject both animals and people to the effects of nuclear fallout. One would think that some of those U.S. and Chinese soldiers placed out in the desert to weather a nuclear blast with sunglasses would have decided to pick up some machine guns and slaughter a few commanding officers rather than risk the deadly radiation. That’s the problem with being a soldier. You have to follow some idiot’s orders and those orders can easily place you right up against a threat to your life and health that may be totally unnecessary. The twentieth century was filled with masses of people who willingly subjected themselves to the instructions of leaders and dropped themselves right into the meat-grinder of war, sacrificing themselves to some vague idea of glory which was actually just the glory of the guys at the bank. We’re doing it a little differently now in the U.S., making war with drones and ‘volunteer’ armies. But the fact is that people are still sacrificing themselves for some idea that’s never been properly explained to them. So they tell themselves that the idea they fight for is ‘freedom.’ We’ve somehow used the events of 9/11 to convince many people to volunteer for a fight they don’t understand. 9/11 was a criminal act by a criminal organization, not a true act of war. The inability to understand that has led to decades of hatred and an all-encompassing worldwide war of vagueness that infiltrates every daily activity, even those as simple as taking a photograph in a subway or near an airport. The terror organizations we fight all over the world could only ever hope to kill as many people in a single year as the drug cartels do. So why aren’t we flying drones over Mexico, killing anyone who looks like a cartel member?

So enjoy the film. What it’s really about is how people turn themselves into horses.

Spirit is a Killer: A Short Film by Joewi Verhoeven

Here’s a short film from Beijing, China directed by Joewi Verhoeven. It’s an odd and discomforting tale about a solitary writer whose fictional world is intruding upon the real world. The film is a quiet and focused examination of a writer’s creative doubts and fears. I particularly like the bit where a Chinese policeman who is a friend of the writer comes over and can’t seem to see the dead body that is perhaps a result of the unrestricted imagination of the writer. The film also has a lovely soft celluloid look even though it was shot entirely on a Canon DSLR.  Also, pay attention to the beautiful and eerie background audio.

Digital Underground in the People’s Republic of China

Rachel Tejada shot and edited this film about independent and underground film in China. It was produced by dGenerate Films.  It’s in six short parts and covers the basics of independent film festivals and efforts to make films that will somehow survive the oversight of the repressive government.  I post this out of a measured interest, but I cannot overlook the depressingly passive sadness of everyone who so much as glances into the camera.  They consistently refer to themselves as independent filmmakers or underground filmmakers.  Underground they may be out of necessity, but they are most certainly not independent.  They are comfortably passive and have an absolute zero level of confrontation or rebellion in them.

I cannot muster significant respect for billions of people who want to express themselves and flourish but do not ever make the decision to pick up their totalitarian government leaders and drown them in the sea.  You can talk to me until you are blue in the face about your independent cinema, but until your cameras shoot something I’m not listening.

Parts 2 – 6 after the jump

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