BC MOMA: Beijing's First Arthouse Cinema

BC MOMA: Beijing's First Arthouse Cinema

Mainland China’s finally got its first arthouse cinema when BC MOMA opened in Beijing on November 1st, significantly enriching Beijing’s film scene and allowing residents a greater exposure to art films from the European continent. Broadway Cinematheque MOMA (BC MOMA) as it is called, will become Beijing’s main platform for European Cinema and arthouse films, hosting regular film events, forums and festivals. The cinema is run by Hong Kong Broadway Cinematheque and is part of the EDKO films management brand. The Hong Kong venue has long been a stable fixture in Hong Kong’s cultural scene, which includes a library, cafe and cinema.

Broadway Cinematheque MOMA 当代MOMA百老汇电影中心 View In Map
Address: Building T4, Northern Estate, 1 Xiangheyuan Lu, Dongzhimen Wai, Chaoyang District, Beijing
东直门外香河园路 1 号当代MOMA 北区T4 座。东直门地铁西北口转 18 路香河园路站
Opening hours: 18:10-22:00 (during trial period. Hours will be extended in late November)
Tel: 010 84388257, 84388202
Website: Currently under construction but event info can be found on douban.com
Getting there: Take the subway to Dongzhimen. Exit the station from the northern exit, then take bus no.18 to Xiangheyuan Lu stop.

MOMA (The Linked Hybrid) in Beijing

BC MOMA in Beijing has three screens and 401 seats, including both film and digital screening facilities. According to the venue’s manager Yang Xin, “Besides commercial films, we aim to screen diverse art films which audiences are not able to see in mainstream Chinese cinemas.” The only problem currently facing the new venue is the fact that only 20 foreign international films are permitted to be screened in the mainland under China’s current film import regulations. However, this is a restriction that the new cinema’s management is currently trying to work on. Besides the films imported by China Film group under the current regulations, the cinema will also actively cooperate with foreign embassies to host film festivals specific to certain regions and countries.

Though the new venue’s first event started off on quite a commercial note by screening Michael Jackson’s documentary This Is It, the opening of the Fourth Chinese Young Generation Film Forum steered the venue back on course as being a new apex for non-mainstream cinema. Legendary Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien made a guest appearance at the opening of the event as did a number of other Chinese stars in the entertainment business, such as Lin Xinru and Ai Dai.

The new venue is housed in a residential compound in central Beijing, surrounded by restaurants, shops and other facilities. Though an arthouse cinema like the new BC MOMA seems completely overdue in a country that has absorbed so much Western influence in a startlingly short space of time, it has to be remembered that prior to the opening up reforms in the late 1970’s, only state approved propaganda films made it onto the big screens. While the West’s alternative culture flourished, China’s film industry suffered from harsh government censorship. It was only with the emergence of what is referred to as “the fifth generation” of film makers (which include famous directors Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige) that new, albeit “underground”, ideas and themes began to trickle into China’s film culture.

Up until recently, established “sixth generation” directors such as Jia Zhangke have also suffered from severe censorship and film bans. Most of today’s arthouse film directors are forced to turn to the international community for funding, even though the level of their films’ controversy is highly debatable. For this reason, the new BC MOMA can be seen as a milestone in China’s film history. Gone are the days when only films adoring the CCP were allowed to air publicly. Not only does the arrival of this venue signify a new tolerance of independent ideas, but also a more relaxed attitude towards alternative foreign culture – this article on rock music’s rocky road to acceptance makes for a good comparison.

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