Shoot for the Contents

Co-produced by Jean-Paul Bourdier Directed by Trinh T. Minh-ha

1991 | 101 minutes | Color | 16mm/DVD | Order No. 99202

SYNOPSIS

Reflecting on Mao’s famous saying, “Let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend,” Trinh T. Minh-ha’s film—whose title refers in part to a Chinese guessing game—is a unique excursion into the maze of allegorical naming and storytelling in China. The film ponders questions of power and change, politics and culture, as refracted by Tiananmen Square events. It offers at the same time an inquiry into the creative process of filmmaking, intricately layering Chinese popular songs and classical music, the sayings of Mao and Confucius, women’s voices and the words of artists, philosophers and other cultural workers. Video images emulate the gestures of calligraphy and contrast with film footage of rural China and stylized interviews. Like traditional Chinese opera, Trinh’s film unfolds through “bold omissions and minute depictions” to render “the real in the illusory and the illusory in the real.” Exploring color, rhythm and the changing relationship between ear and eye, this meditative documentary realizes on screen the shifts of interpretation in contemporary Chinese culture and politics.

PRESS

“Independent in thought and delicate in craftsmanship, strung with the tensile strength of a piano wire.”

Karen Jaehne Film Comment

“Poetic, lyrical, sensual, her work is densely textured and rich with breathtakingly beautiful images, elegant camera work and eloquent multi-layered soundtracks.”

Susan Ditta

“One of the most extraordinary documentaries of recent years….A beautiful and moving film, as challenging and stimulating formally as it is politically.”

London Film Festival

SCREENING HIGHLIGHTS AND AWARDS

  • London Film Festival
  • Sundance, Best Cinematography
  • Yamagata Film Festival, Japan
  • Rotterdam Film Festival
  • Sydney Film Festival
  • Melbourne Film Festival
  • Mannheim Film Festival
  • Films de Femmes, Créteil France
  • Asian American Film Festival

ABOUT FILMMAKER(S)

Trinh T. Minh-ha

Born in Vietnam, Trinh T. Minh-ha is a filmmaker, writer and music composer. Her works include: eight films: FORGETTING VIETNAM (90 mins, 2015), NIGHT PASSAGE (98mins narrative, 2004), THE FOURTH DIMENSION (87 min Digital Video, 2001), A TALE OF LOVE (108 mins, 1995), an experimental narrative, SHOOT FOR THE CONTENTS (102 mins, 1991), a film on culture, art and politics in China, SURNAME VIET GIVEN NAME NAM (108 mins, 1989), a film on identity and culture through the struggle of Vietnamese women, NAKED SPACES - LIVING IS ROUND (135 mins, 1985), and REASSEMBLAGE (40 mins, 1982); twelve books: including Lovecidal. Walking with The Disappeared (2016), D-Passage. The Digital Way (2013), Elsewhere Within Here (Immigration, Refugeeism and The Boundary Event, 2010); The Digital Film Event (2005), Cinema Interval (1999), Framer Framed (on film, 1992), When the Moon Waxes Red, (on representation, gender and cultural politics, 1991), Woman, Native, Other (on post-coloniality and feminism, 1989), En minuscules (poems, 1987), and in coll. with Jean-Paul Bourdier, A World in Dwelling (2011), Habiter un monde (Paris, 2006), Drawn from African Dwelling (1996), African Spaces - Designs for Living in Upper Volta (1985); and four large-scale multi-media installations: Nothing But Ways (in coll. with L M Kirby, 1999, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco), The Desert is Watching (in coll. with Jean-Paul Bourdier, 2003, Kyoto Art Biennale), L'Autre marche (The Other Walk) June 2006 until 2009 at the new Musée du Quai Branly in Paris (France, also in coll. with J-P Bourdier), and Old Land New Waters that was commissioned for the opening of the Okinawa Fine Arts Museum in November 2007; exhibited anew in 2009 and was also showing at the Guangzhou Art Triennial in China (Sept 6 to Nov 16, 2008).

The recipient of numerous awards and grants (including the 2014 Wild Dreamer Lifetime Achievement Award from the Subversive Festival in Zagreb, Croatia; the 2012 Women's Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award; the "Trailblazers" Award at MIPDOC, Cannes; AFI National Independent Filmmaker Maya Deren Award, fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment of the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Film Institute, The Japan Foundation, and the California Arts Council), her films have been given over forty eight retrospectives in Argentina, Croatia, Columbia, Mexico, Finland, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Korea, Spain, the Netherlands, Slovenia, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Japan, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, the UK, the US, and were exhibited at the international contemporary art exhibition Documenta 11 (2002) in Germany. They have shown widely in the States, in Canada, Senegal, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as in Europe and Asia (including in Italy, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Japan, India, Taiwan, Jerusalem. REASSSEMBLAGE was initially exhibited at The New York Film Festival (1983) and had toured the country with the Asian American Film Festival among numerous other festivals. NAKED SPACES received the Blue Ribbon Award for Best Experimental Feature at the American Int'l. Film Festival and the Golden Athena Award for Best Feature Documentary at the Athens International Film Festival in 1986; it toured nationally and internationally with the 1987 Biennial of the Whitney Museum of American Art. SURNAME VIET GIVEN NAME NAM has received the Merit Award from the Bombay International Film Festival, the Film as Art Award from the Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art (SF Museum of Modern Art) and the Blue Ribbon Award at the American Film and Video Festival. SHOOT FOR THE CONTENTS won the Jury's Best Cinematography Award at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival and the Best Feature Documentary Award at the Athens International Film Festival, and toured internationally with the 1993 Biennale of the Whitney Museum. A TALE OF LOVE showed internationally in over twenty-four film festivals, including Berlin and Toronto. THE FOURTH DIMENSION (Locarno, Viennale, Edinburg, London) and NIGHT PASSAGE continue to exhibit widely (UK, Austria, Spain, Japan, Korea, Shanghai).

Trinh Minh-ha has traveled and lectured extensively - in the States, as well as in Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand - on film, art, feminism, and cultural politics. She taught at the National Conservatory of Music in Dakar, Senegal (1977-80); at universities such as Cornell, San Francisco State, Smith, and Harvard, Ochanomizu (Tokyo), Ritsumeikan (Kyoto), Dongguk (Seoul); and is Professor of Gender & Women's Studies and of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. (4/16)

Jean-Paul Bourdier

Jean -Paul Bourdier is a French-born photographer who lives in California. He is the author of Leap into the Blue (2013), Bodyscapes, 2007, co -authored by Trinh T. Minh. Bourdier was also production designer for seven films and co - director of two with Trinh Minh. Bourdier has won the Guggenheim, American Council of Learned Societies, NEA, Graham, UC President's Humanities and Getty awards. He is also a Professor of Architecture, Photography and Visual Studies at UC Berkeley.

One of the main interests Bourdier's works is that in the age of digital photography. He uses analogue photography. His tools are the human body, paint, landscapes and a camera. Everything you see is actually happening at the time and the space in front of the camera, an example of his skills as a photographer, a vivid imagination and a strong will to devote the time and energy necessary to perform these great pictures. Bourdier creates a surreal world of surprising and unexpected color with highlights and fascinating beauty.

Jean -Paul Bourdier does not shoot randomly. His photographs planned out thoroughly, and later represented by a handful of models. These are not professional, great beauties that cause a strong visual effect, but ordinary people who blend into the landscape to achieve the desired effect by the artist. (8/14)

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