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Panel Discussion

Authenticity Unframed—Navigating the Real and Reel in Chinese Indie Cinema

With S. Louisa Wei, Liyo Gong, Cao Liuying, introduced by Jean-Michel Frodon, moderated by Wang Zifei.

Hybrid: In-person & Online 

Lou Ye, an icon of China’s Sixth Generation of filmmakers, once voiced through the protagonist in the film Suzhou River: “My camera doesn't lie." However, cinema is an art that constantly walks the line between reality and fiction. The China on screen, rendered by filmmakers, is one that is parallel, rather than identical, to reality.  

This panel will navigate the idea of authenticity by discussing how history, creativity, and viewership shape representations of reality in Chinese Indie Cinema. How have the creators and viewers of Chinese Indie Cinema changed over the past three decades? In the context of media globalisation, who constitutes the target audience for such films and what is their relationship with the world depicted on screen? How are the shifting realities of Greater China reflected in the films? In the pursuit of a camera that “doesn’t lie,” what kinds of efforts and compromises do filmmakers make? How do they establish a portal for audiences to experience the everyday of people that are faraway? As viewers, how should we interpret and deconstruct the reality projected on the screen? 

Public participation is welcome!


S. Louisa Wei is a filmmaker and Professor of Creative Media at City University of Hong Kong. She has published extensively on early Sinophone and women’s cinema and has directed several documentaries, including Havana Divas, which will be screened at ICCW 2023.

Liyo Gong, born in Belgium, is a film editor, musician, and actress interested in blending visual arts and narrative cinema. She has collaborated with filmmakers like Wang Bing and Lawrence Lek, and she recently starred in Bas Devos' award-winning film "Here." She is also a DJ in the "Heartbroken" collective, performing worldwide and creating soundtracks for international venues and events.

Cao Liuying is a film critic, programmer, producer, festival strategy consultant, and publicist. She co-founded the Chinese film production company Midnight Blur Films and serves as the artistic co-director of the Red Lotus Asian Film Festival in Vienna.

Zhang Zhen is a professor at New York University, where she teaches Cinema Studies and directs the Asian Film and Media Initiative. She has an extensive publication record on Chinese independent cinema and has served as the primary organiser of the biannual Reel China Documentary Festival at New York University since 2001.

Jean-Michel Frodon is a journalist, critic and historian of cinema. He is the author and editor of various volumes on French cinema, Chinese cinema, film theory, film history, cinema technology, and politics.

Wang Zifei is a PhD candidate at Heidelberg University, whose research focuses on Chinese independent cinema.