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Set in the quasi-ghost town of Yumen, which once thrived with oil production in China’s arid northwest Gansu province, Yumen is a haunting, fragmented tale of hungry souls, restless youth, a wandering artist, and a lonely woman, all searching for human connection and a collective past among the town’s crumbling landscape.  One part “ruin porn,” one part ghost story, and shot entirely on 16mm, the film brings together narrative gesture, performance art, and socialist realism into a crude and radiant collage that not only plays with convention and defies genre, but also pays homage to a disappearing life-world and a fading medium. 

Xu Ruotao, born in 1968 in Shenyang, China, is a visual artist and film director who lives and works in Songzhuang, a growing artist village on the outskirts of the Beijing municipality. Xu began his career in the creative community of Yuanmingyuan, China’s first independent artist village. He started making films in 2000 and has produced two features, Yumen (2013) and Rumination (2009).
Huang Xiang, born in 1974 in southern China, lives and works in Songzhuang, Beijing. Due to his performance art piece Jasmine Flower, he was placed under criminal detention for 30 days and was restricted from pursuing artistic production and exhibition. Now Huang Xiang is primarily engaged in independent filmmaking, and has produced and directed his first feature, Roast Chicken (2012), prior to co-directing Yumen (2013).
J. P. Sniadecki, born in 1979 in Michigan, is a filmmaker and a PhD candidate in media anthropology at Harvard. At the intersection of art, cinema, and ethnography, his work has been shown in festivals, universities, museums, and galleries, and has received many awards, including two Golden Leopards at the Locarno International Film Festival for Foreign Parts (co-directed with Verena Paravel). He is founder and curator of Emergent Visions, a film series that screens new independent cinema from China.

Format: HD Video
Running time: 65 min
Directed by
: Xu Ruotao, J.P. Sniadecki, Huang Xiang
Featuring: Chen Qi, Zhou Qian, Chen Xuehua, Huang Xiang, Xu Ruotao
Cinematography: J.P. Sniadecki, Huang Xiang
Sound: J.P. Sniadecki, Huang Xiang
Editing: Xu Ruotao, J.P. Sniadecki, Huang Xiang
Narration script: Xu Ruotao, Yinyan
Voice-over: Xu Ruotao, Chen Qi, Zhou Qian, Chen Xuehua
Sound mix: Ernst Karel
Produced in association with the Film Study Center at Harvard University

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur