Two films from Caochangdi Workstation

  • Saturday, November 9, 2019 / 2:00 PM - 5:45 PM (PST)
  • Pollock Theater
  • Screening Format: High-Resolution Quicktime (159 Minutes)
  • With Wu Wenguang (Director) & Zhang Mengqi (Director)
  • Sphinx in 47KM (2018) and Autobiography II: Struggles (2019)

In 2010, pioneering Chinese filmmaker Wu Wenguang founded the Memory Project. Housed in the Caochangdi Workstation in an art district on the outskirts of Beijing, the project’s purpose is to teach documentary production skills to aspiring amateur filmmakers, who then travel to their familial villages to collect oral histories about some of the most tumultuous periods of the twentieth century, including the Great Famine and Cultural Revolution. To date, the Memory Project has collected over a thousand interviews and produced fifty-six feature-length documentaries.

The Carsey-Wolf Center is delighted to welcome Wu Wenguang and his collaborators back to UCSB for a screening of two Caochangdi Workstation works: Zhang Menqi’s Sphinx in 47KM (2018) and Wu Wenguang’s Autobiography II: Struggles (2019).  Sphinx in 47KM explores the relationship between painful memory and hopeful imaginations. Deploying a series of stunningly framed long takes, the film cuts between a mother recounting the harrowing story of her adult son’s death and a young girl who expresses her view of the future by painting a mural on a village wall. Autobiography II: Struggles raises questions about belonging, identity, and social history. The film focuses on Wu’s mother’s past, and completes a duology that Wu began with his 2016 film Investigating My Father, which previously screened at the Pollock Theater.

Director and Memory Project founder Wu Wenguang and director Zhang Mengqi joined moderator Wesley Jacks for a post-screening discussion.

This event is free but a reservation is recommended in order to guarantee a seat.

Tickets will be released on Friday, October 18 at 11:00 AM.


Wu Wenguang

Director Wu Wenguang

Wu Wenguang is often referred to as the “Godfather of Chinese documentary.” After quitting his job as a journalist at a state-backed television station at the end of the 1980s, Wu borrowed equipment from former colleagues and made Bumming in Beijing (1990), the first independently-produced documentary in China. He continued directing documentaries through the 1990s and 2000s, including 1966, My Time in the Red Guards (1993), At Home in the World (1995), Dance with Farm Workers (2001), and F*ck Cinema (2005). Along with his partner Wen Hui, in 2005 he opened the Caochangdi Workstation (CCD). The space operates as a hub for documentary screenings, dance performances, video art, and filmmaking practice.

The founding of the Memory Project in 2010 allowed Wu to turn his energies towards mentorship, enabling him to produce dozens of documentaries by aspiring filmmakers. In addition to teaching them in the fundamentals of documentary filmmaking, Wu and Wen Hui have collaborated with students on a series of group movement performances that seek to echo the themes of hunger, desperation, hope, and loss that are central to the Memory Project interviews about events including the Great Leap Forward, the Great Famine, and the Cultural Revolution. The Duke University library has committed itself to cataloguing and maintaining a digital archive of interviews from the Memory Project, which serve as an invaluable repository of oral histories describing twentieth-century Chinese village life. Over the past several years, Wu has led filmmaker/dancer groups on tours of universities and festivals across the world. This is his third trip to UC Santa Barbara.


Director Zhang Mengqi

Zhang Mengqi graduated from the Dance Academy of Minzu University of China in 2008 and began working as a resident filmmaker and choreographer at the Caochangdi Workstation in 2009. Over the past decade, she has repeatedly returned to her father’s family village to direct an ever-deepening catalogue of films examining life in that community, which is located 47 km away from the nearest city. During her journeys to the village, she has also spearheaded the creation of a monument to local residents who perished in the Great Famine and the establishment of a library for children. The films in Zhang’s remarkable series include: Self-portrait with Three Women (2010), Self-Portrait: At 47KM (2011), Self-Portrait: Dancing at 47KM (2012), Self-Portrait: Dreaming at 47KM (2013), Self-Portrait: Building a bridge at 47KM (2014), Self-Portrait: Dying at 47KM (2015), Self-Portrait: Birth in 47KM (2016), and Self-Portrait: Window at 47KM (2019). In addition to her documentary work, she continues to freelance as a choreographer and dancer in China.


Moderator Wesley Jacks

Wesley Jacks is the Assistant Director of the Carsey-Wolf Center. He earned his PhD in Film and Media Studies from UC Santa Barbara in 2019. His research focuses on the fields of Chinese film history and media industries studies. He has taught courses at UCSB, China Agricultural University, and Minzu University of China and has given presentations at Peking University, Nanyang Technological University, Warner Brothers Studios, and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

Xiuhe square headshot

Translator Xiuhe Zhang

Xiuhe Zhang is currently pursuing his PhD in Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Born and raised in Northeast China, Xiuhe received his BA in Television Photography from Communication University of China, and an MFA in Cinematography from the University of Miami. Before coming to UCSB, he graduated from San Francisco State University with an MA in Cinema Studies. His current research project explores mainland Chinese (self-)mediations of sex workers and the sexual economy, particularly through historiographic and media anthropological lenses.

 This event is co-sponsored by the Carsey-Wolf Center, the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies,  and the MultiCultural Center.