Filmed on a worksite in the center of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in western China, Chaiqian (Demolition) is a cinematic portrait of migrant labor, urban space, and the ephemeral connection between film-subject and filmmaker. Attending first to the transforming worksite – including the demands of physical labor and the relationship between human and machine – the film gradually shifts focus to the group of thirty men and women who have come from the countryside to work in this ever-changing urban landscape. The workers share jokes, meals, and evening strolls through the city, all with the filmmaker in tow. Whether on the worksite or in Chengdu’s main square, they encounter a range of reactions from the city residents, from friendly curiosity to aggressive suspicion. With formal rigor and careful composition, Chaiqian (Demolition) explores these interactions between members of China’s “floating population,” the city’s residents, and the filmmaker himself, offering a meditation on class, urban change, and cinema itself.
J.P. Sniadecki, assistant professor of radio/television/film, is a filmmaker and anthropologist active in China and the United States, whose films explore collective experience, sensory ethnography, and the possibilities of cinema. His films are in the permanent collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and have screened at festivals such as the Berlinale, Locarno, New York, AFI, Edinburgh, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Viennale, Torino, BAFICI, RIDM, Cinema du Reel, FICUNAM, and DOChina as well as at venues such as the 2014 Whitney Biennale, the 2014 Shanghai Biennale, the Guggenheim, Vienna’s MAC, Beijing’s UCCA, and the Shenzhen Biennale. His films include Chaiqian/Demolition (2010) winner of the Joris Ivens Award, Foreign Parts (2010) winner of two Leopards at Locarno and named Best Film at the Punto de Vista Film Festival and DocsBarcelona, People’s Park (2012) named Best Anthropological Film at Festival dei Popoli, and Yumen (2013) named Best Experimental Film and Best Chinese Film at the Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival. Sniadecki’s latest feature, The Iron Ministry (2014), was A.O. Scott’s “Critics Pick” in the New York Times and has screened widely and garnered the top prize at L’Alternativa Film Festival and jury prizes at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, Valdivia and Camden. He is a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and coorganizer of the traveling film series “Cinema on the Edge” and “China Now”, which showcase independent cinema from China. He has also written articles and interviews for Cinema Scope and contributed essays to Visual Anthropology Review and the edited volume DV-Made China (Hawaii University Press).