The debates surrounding Xu Tong's 'Wheat Harvest' energized the debate surrounding documentary ethics. In recent years, lively (and sometimes vociferous) discussions have revolved around questions regarding the legitimate use of hidden cameras, the aestheticization of suffering, and the parading of a 'backward' China to a supercilious or complacent Western gaze. (...) The day after the Nanjing Forum, a number of filmmakers issued a manifesto entitled 'Shamanism-Animal' (萨满－动物). (...) The title 'Shamanism-Animal' is attributed to the filmmaker Ji Dan 季丹, as she has reportedly compared the filmmaker to a shaman, both being conduits through which others find voice. (...) Moving away from the language of scholarship, and the populist tradition associated with revolution, Ji Dan prefers to use the language of religion and mysticism to explain her idea of what a filmmaker is, and what filmmaking as a practice can bring into existence.
The signatories to the Manifesto would appear to share a common belief that documentary cinema is an art form possessed of an innate logic that can only be appreciated outside the realm of rational reasoning. (...) In effect, the filmmakers collectively declared that film has its own language and logic, and that it is separate from the scholarly enterprise of theorization and classification. They expressed a general suspicion of theory: 'That thing called theory, when spoken of in excess becomes dogma; beyond a certain threshold, it becomes totalitarianism', writes Hu Xinyu 胡新宇. For the filmmakers, documentary is the opposite of theorization: it doesn't posit a priori knowledge. 'The motivation to document comes from being ashamed of one's own ignorance', wrote Hu. Theory, on the other hand, is like 'absent observation', argued Mao Chenyu 毛晨雨.... Read More