The US-based independent film scholar and movie critic specializing in Chinese cinema, Karen Ma’s most recent work takes the form of creative and inspiring interviews with 7 young Chinese film directors, revealing new trends that are not fully acknowledged in Western scholarship. Many balinghou (born in post-1980s) filmmakers are grassroots artists from smaller towns or in rural China not formally trained at film academies. In addition, these younger directors are among the first generation to have benefited hugely from new technology, including affordable digital video cameras, cell phones, and the internet, which significantly lowered the barriers for artists entering the industry, allowing them to turn their passion into profession.
More importantly, most of their stories can be traced to their rural hometowns, bringing a fresh repertoire to Chinese independent film. While rural themes are hardly new in Chinese film history, these tended in the past to be told mostly from a top-down, urban-elite perspective. The rural narratives of balinghou filmmakers, on the other hand, tend to be based on people from their neighborhoods, revealing a sense of social and cultural intimacy not often encountered before.