This article examines the Folk Memory Project, a collective documentary initiative in China that organized young filmmakers to return to their home villages to interview elders and unearth silenced memories of the devastating Chinese Great Famine of 1959–61. Focusing on two films produced as part of this project, Self-Portrait with Three Women (dir. Zhang Mengqi, China, 2010) and Children's Village (dir. Zou Xueping, China, 2012), the article argues that the project produces a counterhistory through collective film production in a digital format. These films foreground the filmmaking process and the filming subjects, demonstrating self-reflexive performativity more than transparent authenticity. It is such performativity that mediates between the past and the present, between the individual and the collective. As a participatory performance of filmmaking, the Folk Memory Project demonstrates the profound impact of digital production on the filming subjects as well as its sociopolitical implications. It asks for a paradigm shift in our theoretical understanding of digital cinema, moving from a focus on the indexicality of the image to a consideration of the plurality of knowledge in media, from the subjectivity of spectators to the subjectivity of filmmakers.
Jinying Li; Memory Resurrected in HD: Collective Digital Video Filmmaking as Production of Counterhistory in the Folk Memory Project. Camera Obscura 1 May 2016; 31 (1 (91)): 175–185. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-3454485
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