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Nov 10, 2016

The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery will present the Third China Onscreen Biennial series, a showcase of new and classic Chinese cinema for American audiences.

Selections represent a spectrum of highlights from China’s fast-transitioning media universe. Many of the films were created within China’s vastly expanding and internationalizing entertainment industry, while others engage more explicitly as works of art. This series, which will screen the films free of charge from Nov. 15–17 at Landmark’s E Street Cinema, is presented in collaboration with the UCLA Confucius Institute with support from Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters and the Confucius Institute at George Washington University.

Complementing the biennial’s main selection of new features will be the sidebar series “Dunhuang Projected.” These films ask what relevance the medieval town of Dunhuang may hold today by seeking to correlate spiritual illumination in the dark (the town’s famous cave art) with literal illumination in the dark (the art of cinema).

Featuring several Washington, D.C., premieres, the Third China Onscreen Biennial portrays a China of remarkable plurality. The full lineup includes:

Tharlo—Tuesday, Nov. 15; 7 p.m.
Landmark E Street Cinema
One of the most prominent Tibetan filmmakers working today, Pema Tseden tells his version of the age-old tale of a naive romance that turns into something darker.

Ta’ang—Tuesday, Nov. 15; 9:30 p.m.
Landmark E Street Cinema
Groundbreaking Chinese documentarian Wang Bing immerses the audience in the ebb and flow of a refugee camp on the Sino-Myanmar border.

Crosscurrent—Wednesday, Nov. 16; 7 p.m.
Landmark E Street Cinema
Director Yang Chao unfolds the time-traveling tale of a couple, seemingly on the lam, as they rendezvous on a boat following the Yangzi River upstream. Preceded by a reception at 5:30. Followed by an audience question and answer session with Chao.

The Road—Wednesday, Nov. 16; 10 p.m.
Landmark E Street Cinema
This documentary investigates the construction of the Xu-Huai Highway, which was meant to help China’s economy withstand the 2008 financial crisis.

I Am Not Madame Bovary—Thursday, Nov. 17; 7 p.m.
Landmark E Street Cinema
A café proprietor spends a decade petitioning the Chinese legal system after being swindled by her ex-husband in this caustically comic, contemporary fable.

DC Premiere: A Simple Goodbye—Thursday, Nov. 17, 9:30 p.m.
Landmark E Street Cinema
Writer-director Degena Yun also stars in this understated, semi-autobiographical story of a daughter and father equally adrift at opposite ends of their lives.

The China Onscreen Biennial Sidebar: Dunhuang Projected full lineup includes:

The Cave of the Silken Web—Saturday, Nov. 12; 1 p.m.
National Gallery of Art
In 1927, Chinese film pioneers Dan Duyu and Yin Mingzhu made what is believed to be the first screen adaptation of the 16th-century novel Journey to the West. This recent preservation of the film revives its many visual delights.

Stage Sisters—Saturday, Nov. 26; 1:30 p.m.
National Gallery of Art
This Sirkian melodrama follows the lives, loves and artistry of an itinerant Chinese opera company during the 1930s and 1940s.

Behemoth—Saturday, Nov. 26; 4 p.m.
National Gallery of Art
Stunningly beautiful yet essentially unnerving—a poetic depiction of a green, pastoral China about to be undone by expanding coal mines.

Saving Mes Aynak—Sunday, Nov. 27; 4:30 p.m.
National Gallery of Art
In this documentary, Afghan archaeologist Qadir Temori races to save an ancient site.

Films included in the China Onscreen Biennial series will be screened at Landmark E Street Cinema at 555 11th St. N.W. The Dunhuang Protected series will be shown at the National Gallery of Art East Building’s large auditorium at Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue N.W.

The Fall Film Series is free and open to the public. Admission is first come, first served. Auditorium doors open 30 minutes before show time. Visit for full descriptions, schedule updates and admission policies.


The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., together comprise the nation’s museum of Asian art. It contains one of the most important collections of Asian art in the world, featuring more than 40,000 objects ranging in time from the Neolithic to the present day, with especially fine groupings of Islamic art, Chinese jades, bronzes and paintings and the art of the ancient Near East. The galleries also contain important masterworks from Japan, ancient Egypt, South and Southeast Asia and Korea, as well as the Freer’s noted collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler. The Freer, which remains closed during the festival, is scheduled to reopen in October 2017 with modernized technology and infrastructure, refreshed gallery spaces and an enhanced auditorium.

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