Samantha Culp

Rangha – Abbas Kiarostami on Color for Children

The fabulous Belog site has unearthed this great early 1976 short of Abbas Kiarostami, entitled “Rang-ha” (“Colors” in Persian). As the title suggests, “by showing a series of different-coloured objects, the film aims to familiarize very young children with the various colours, and ends with a shot of a blackboard, a symbol of learning.” (From the film’s Wikipedia synopsis) For those of us who already know our colors, it’s just fun to watch a world-class auteur bring his A-game to what is essentially a Sesame Street segment.

In related news, this year’s Hong Kong International Film Festival features a special retrospective of Kiarostami, and I was honored to write the catalogue notes for this program. See more details here, and below:

“The 35th Hong Kong International Film Festival will screen Kiarostami’s latest work – Certified Copy, a romantic story between a British writer (William SHIMELL) and a French woman (Juliette BINOCHE) in Italy. Certified Copy competed for the Palme d’Or at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival, where Juliette BINOCHE was awarded the Best Actress Award for her outstanding performance.

To celebrate the breakthrough that KIAROSTAMI has made in his latest production, HKIFF will present a selection of KIAROSTAMI’s films from different periods of time, offering the public an opportunity to review his classic productions over the past 40 years, including:

* The Bread and Alley (Noon va Koucheh) 1970
* The Traveller (Mosafer) 1974
* Where is the Friend’s Home? (Khane-ye doust kodjast?) 1987
* Homework (Mashgh-e Shab) 1989
* Close-up (Nema-ye Nazdik) 1990
* And Life Goes On… (Zendegi va digar hich) 1991
* Through the Olive Trees (Zire darakhatan zeyton) 1994
* Taste of Cherry (Ta’m-e gilass) 1997
* The Wind Will Carry Us (Bād mā rā khāhad bord) 1999
* ABC Africa 2001
* Ten (Dah) 2002
* Five (Panj) 2004
* 10 on Ten 2004
* Shirin 2008
* Certified Copy 2010”

HO TZU NYEN: RECENT VIDEOS – Special Screening in Shanghai


It’s a pretty insane week here in Shanghai, as the “back-to-school” activities of the artworld commence, but truly looking forward to an event I’ve helped organize for this Sunday evening: two recent works by Singaporean filmmaker Ho Tzu-Nyen, to be screened in association with my friends at Future Perfect, and hosted by the just-barely-soft-opened Shanghai branch of Café Sambal. (Many thanks to Cho Chong Gee of Sambal for graciously supporting the event!)

If you find yourself in Shanghai this Sunday, please do attend – it should be a relaxing, atmospheric end to a crazy week.


Melbourne Memories of Hong Kong Cinema’s Golden Age

Some fantastic posters on the Phantoms of Pulp blog from the 1980s/90s heyday of Hong Kong film, as experienced from Melbourne, Australia.

HK’s movie industry was so prolific during this period, the author tells us, that “…in Melbourne, the Chinese exhibitors’ solution was to rent additional screens from the English language chains (Hoyts and the Russell Cinemas chain, for example) to play their surplus. For a die-hard fan like myself, it was possible to see between four and eight new releases each week. I have strange memories of frantically driving into the city with my brother on two or three weeknights per week to catch releases that were guaranteed no more than a seven day theatrical run…”

More reveries here.

Paul Robeson, Anna May Wong & Mei Lanfang Vintage Photo

(full size image here)

An amazing photograph from 1935 of Paul Robeson, Anna May Wong and Mei Lanfang standing in front of Claridge’s hotel in London. One can only imagine how cool their tea-time that afternoon must have been.

Courtesy of the “Room 26: Cabinet of Curosities” blog, which features new acquisitions, unique documents, and visual and textual curiosities from the collections of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.


Short Stays Premiere

At long last, Short Stays had its premiere at The Opposite House on May 18. See some snapshots here…


Photos from Short Stays: the Making Of

Click below to play a slideshow of the Short Stays film stills and making of…

Link to set on Flickr.

Short Stays – Premiere May 18

Short Stays, the film project I produced for The Opposite House hotel in Beijing, will have its long-awaited premiere on May 18. Read more on the Short Stays website.

3 Short Films by / 三个短片
Zhao Ye / Liu Jiayin / Peng Lei


Street Legal

Yesterday up at Gulou, I finally got around to buying the new albums by Hedgehog (just released) and Ourself Beside Me (came out in January)… Only to discover a few hours later via the salivating tweets of more media-savvy Beijingren that Google China had just launched its free mp3 service, which, of course, happens to feature both albums.

Oh well – still nice to support an actual music shop, and made an additional purchase of some Cui Zi’en (崔子恩) DVDs I haven’t seen around before. A few years ago at HKIFF, Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang described to me his first exposure to Cui’s films as something like this: “I put on the tape, and was watching it until I felt I had to turn it off, but then I couldn’t turn it off… it’s so bad that it’s fascinating, and then it becomes interesting.” Intense paraphrasing going on there, but it sticks in my mind as fairly apt. The weird, self-conscious crappiness in the aesthetic and tone of “Withered in the Blooming Season” is kind of amazing.

The Hedgehog and Ourself Beside Me albums are available for streaming and download below. (Legally! Though the concept of something that is both “digital” and “legal” in China is still confusing to me.) I’m still making my way through them…


Ourself Beside Me “Ourself Beside Me”
(Loving the Rundgren/Barrett-by-way-of-Lisa-Frank cover art; also I’m amazed that they actually did use ‘Ourself Beside Me’ as the official name on it – they had barely decided it while my THEME article on them was going to press)

Hedgehog “Blue Day Dreaming”
(I wish time machines existed just so that Hedgehog could travel back to 1993 to appear on 120 Minutes, and we could now watch it on grainy Youtube VHS capture…)

From Vientiane to Beijing in Theme Magazine

As my last spurt of journalistic productivity before going on my present “sabbatical,” I have two pieces in the current issue of Theme Magazine (NYC). One is on Beijing band “Ourself Beside Me” (also known as “Ourselves Beside Me”; there is no definitive right spelling and I suspect the girls prefer it that way); the other on Thai television show “Dreamchaser.”

Profile: Ourself Beside Me, Theme Magazine, Issue 17, Nov/Dec/Jan 2008/2009 Eureka!

Theme: Dreamchaser, Theme Magazine, Issue 17, Nov/Dec/Jan 2008/2009 Eureka!