WHAT ABOUT CHINA?Directed by Trinh T. Minh-ha
Official Selection, 2022 CPH:DOX Documentary Film Festival
Official Selection, 2022 Whitney Biennial
A new Trinh T. Minh-ha (Surname Viet Given Name Nam) film is a cultural event. An esteemed filmmaker, composer, writer, and UC Berkeley Distinguished Professor, Trinh has for decades led the vanguard of critical thought on the politics of the image, postcolonial and feminist filmmaking, and form and poetics. In her newest film, the sonically striking WHAT ABOUT CHINA?, Hi8 footage shot in rural China from 1993-1994 is reframed thirty years later: first against China’s contradicting representation, histories, and futures, and second through the process of conversion from video to digital, where the transformation of low-res images creates ghostly animations on a canvas of multi-generational change.
Pulsing against the surface of this inquiry is a theory of harmonics that takes the Hakka Roundhouse—a circular multi-family dwelling connected by common areas in the center—as its nexus. Trinh finds in this architecture, in the materials she uses to compose her film, and in the footage converted from video to digital a network of passageways: between society and nature, self and other, landscape and innerscape. The viewer is invited to steep themselves in these harmonics, both material and metaphor, to find associative flights from the polyrhythmic interaction of ideas, instruments, songs, text, moving and still images. We journey through these haunted, infinite scales, guided by voiceover readings by Xiaolu Guo, Xiao Yue Shang, Yi Zhong, and Trinh herself. Each offers a different entryway into the film’s polyvocal network of thought. One asks: “What exactly is disappearing? And why?”