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Project 798: New Art in China - arthouse and international DVD / foreign language DVD review
PROJECT 798: NEW ART IN CHINA Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Chen Wenbo, Feng Zhengjie, The Gao Brothers, He Yunchang, Hong Hao, Huang Rui
Director: Lucius C. Kuert   Distributor: Microcinema
DVD release: 10 May 2010   Runtime: 62 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD, NTSC
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 1.78:1, Audio tracks (Dolby Digital Stereo - Mandarin, English, Italian), Subtitles (English)

PROJECT 798: NEW ART IN CHINAFor many decades, China's favored city of Beijing has harbored the nation's more freethinking contemporary artists in a little-known, rundown district referred to as Project 798. Within the limits of this grungy warehouse district, Chinese artists have found the soul of their work among each other and sometimes in defiance of the government's demanding laws.

The aura of Project 798 was as compelling to those artists residing there as it was to those passing through, encouraging more and more interest in the work finding life within its confines. But with the passing of the decades, the growing popularity has brought with it a price: Project 798 became targeted by the government as a project of its own.

PROJECT 798: NEW ART IN CHINA focuses on the development of contemporary art with the strictures of an oppressive regime weighing on the artists' freedom of expression. Project 798 does not exist as it used to. The government's regulations play a large role in silencing some artists and restricting themes that others may choose to work with; however, there are those who cannot be dissuaded from seeing this evolution positively.

Some of China's most acclaimed contemporary artists, including Chen Wenbo, Hong Hao, Wang Qingsong and many others, participated in the filming of PROJECT 798 to address the project's evolution and the true widespread implications that are connected to it culturally, socially, politically, and beyond. Through the artists' many narratives on their work, their inspiration, and the impact of Project 798's now-commercialized environment, it is easy to connect the symbolism between the project's evolution and that of greater China.

Theirs is a quiet struggle for the right of expression and exploration into territories of freedom that many in democratic countries cannot relate too. The funky art district known as Project 798 had always been somewhat removed from the typical humdrum of society, but with the government's commercialization and the massive influx of tourists, change is being forced within as well as without. The artists' freedoms are even more censured now, closely monitored, and the tourists often require less intellectual art to please them. Is this new art in new China really better?

This documentary was filmed on location in Beijing. Director Lucius Kuert interviewed at least ten local artists in their studios around the district, giving detailed close-ups of some of their work while they discuss the then and now of the district, its impact on their work, and how the district is evolving with the commercialization rapidly progressing.

English subtitles are automatically provided for those artists who speak only Chinese. Each artist is unique in his/her technique and art form, making for a diverse visual bouquet of works throughout the film. PROJECT 798 is a wonderful visual and educational experience for all ages.
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reviewed by Sonia R. Polinsky
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