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That’s so Shanghai: YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT at China Women’s Film Festival

Lynne Sachs attends 2nd Annual China Women’s Film Festival

That's so Shanghai logo







Nov. , 2014



Attention all you mainstream and cult film lovers, feminists and non-feminists alike! The second China Women’s Film Festival is presenting a total of fifteen screenings around the city throughout the week. (Scroll down for more screening details.)

While the women’s film festival in Taiwan has an almost-20-year history, and many female directors in Hong Kong have been making their marks since the 1930s, women’s cinema is still in its infancy in mainland China. Although they came from different backgrounds, Ying Xin, Dan Li, Juan Jiang and Zhao-Yu Li shared a common desire to do something about women and arts, so the four first launched the first China Women’s Film Festival  covering four cities in 2013.

“We are a pretty grassroots film festival, none of the members of our organizing committee is from the film industry, and it’s completely organized by volunteers.” Says Ying, “It isn’t the first of its kind in mainland China, but it is the only one that makes it to the second edition.”

In its second year, the China Women’s Film Festival is running parallel sessions in Shanghai. “Shanghai is free, fashionable, feminine… and it offers unparalleled opportunities for women in China. Shanghai is an ideal venue for our CWFF.” Says Monica Qiu, a like-minded friend of Ying’s who initiated the sessions in Shanghai.

Monica started to summon volunteers at her birthday party in late October. Through the magic of networking and social media, she gathered around 80 ardent participants. “We’ve only had one month to make it happen, and the fact that it relies solely on volunteering… There are lots of uncertainties.”

Volunteers all have their own jobs. Putting together this film festival uses up their spare time, but they are quite enjoying it. “We had lots of meetings last until midnight, and afterwards, everyone went on with their ‘homework’. We split up marketing, renting venues, inviting guests, seeking media partners and sponsorship…” Monica continues, “We are just a temporary team, but we’ve been efficient and organized. I’m so proud of us!”

“I see feminism as a harmonious interplay between both sexes.” Monica told THAT’S, “We are expecting that through such film screenings and forums, not only women would become more active in exploring their own identities, but men would get more involved, to better understand women. This hasn’t been done enough in China.”

Here’s a list of the film screenings coming up over the next week:

Date Time Slot Film Profile Location Price
Nov 23 7pm-9pm Golden Gate, Silver Light Shi-Yu Wei/Hong Kong/2013/90min/Documentary Yuz Museum RMB25 (Student discount: RMB10)
Nov 24 7pm-9.30pm Peony Birds Yu-Shan Huang/Taiwan/1990, 106mins/Feature Wan Yuan Culture Free
5.15pm-6.45pm Your Day Is My Night Lynne Sachs/USA/2013/63mins/Experimental NYU Shanghai Free (Please bring your ID card)
Nov 25 7pm-9.30pm My Dear Stilt Yin-juan Cai/Taiwan/2012/107min/Feature Tongji Venture Valley Free
Nov 26 7pm-9.30pm Out Of Focus Sheng-Ze Zhu/2013/China/88mins/Documentary Wan Yuan Culture Free
Nov 27 7pm-9pm Gare du Nord Claire Simon/France/2012/119mins/Feature Yuz Museum RMB25 (Student discount: RMB10)
Nov 28 7pm-8.30pm Transit  Hannah Espia/Philippines/2013/93mins/Documentary Story Space RMB25 (Student discount: RMB10)
Nov 29 2pm-2.30pm Summer Secret Zeng Zeng/China/2014/Feature Qia Tu Sheng Huo The total of 6 films: RMB25, (Student discount: RMB10)
2.30-3.30pm I Don’t Want Grandma To Talk Yun Zhi/China/2013/5mins/Experimental
3.30-4pm Happen Chao Wu/China/2013/22mins/Animation
4pm-4.10pm Light Mind Jie Yi/China/2013/9mins/Experimental
4.10pm-5.20pm Trace Ji Huang/China/2013/72mins/Documentary
5.20pm-6.20pm States of Unbelonging Lynne Sachs/USA/2006/63mins/Experimental
Nov 30 1pm-2.30pm Calling and Recalling: Sentiments of Women’s Script Yu-I Guo/Taiwan/2013/74mins/Documentary Aurora Museum Free
2.30pm-3pm A Documentary about CWFF 2014, Shanghai Aurora Museum Free


That’s Shanghai Magazine interviews Lynne Sachs

Thats Shanghai

INTERVIEW: Experimental documentary filmmaker Lynne Sachs

INTERVIEW: Experimental documentary filmmaker Lynne Sachs
16 Dec 2014
by Tamia Tang

Image above: “What Happened in the Dragon Year?” by Xun Sun, mural painting displayed in Shanghai Biennale 2014.

Award-winning American experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs recently visited Shanghai for the Second China Women’s Film Festival with her latest offering Your Day is My Night. Deemed one of the eight must-watch movies in 2014 by BBC, the hybrid documentary discusses the relationship between historical turmoil and personal hardship, from the mouths of seven impoverished immigrants residing in Manhattan’s Chinatown. We caught up with the director to talk about the film, race and feminism.

Just like every ambitious twenty-something, Lynne Sachs was ready to change the world but wasn’t sure where to start. Her young mind was bubbling over with all kinds of possibilities. “There was one side of me that wanted to be a poet or an artist with a commitment to activism. Then there was the other side that thought the only way I could improve conditions around the world was to become a human rights attorney,” she reflects, saying her first brush with the world of experimental films was Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren, who is considered the grandmother of the field. “When I discovered independent film making, I felt like I had found a way of living that would pull together both of these aspirations.”

After graduating from Brown University with a B.A. in history, she went on to earn a M.A. in cinema at San Francisco State University, and later an additional M.F.A. in Film at the San Francisco Art Institute, to get a start on her career as a filmmaker.

Her first fully-developed documentary Sermons and Sacred Pictures, a biography of the 1930s-1940s African-American minister and filmmaker Reverend L. O. Taylor, made its debut at the Museum of Modern Art in 1989. “As we say in the film world, the film was my first to have ‘wings,’ meaning that once I finished the film, it ‘carried me’ to film festivals and important art venues around the country. Both of my parents flew from their homes across the country to attend. It was a big, exciting, scary single evening that made me feel like a real artist.”

The film also helped Sachs understand where she came from: the Memphis-born director moved back to her hometown for three months during shooting. “In order to make the film, I needed to walk by myself with my 16mm camera all over African-American neighborhoods I had never visited before in my life. Memphis was 50 percent black and 50 percent white. The film gave me permission to step through the racial and geographical borders that had separated my life as a young white woman from the lives of African-American people whose lives were so close and yet so far away, which was profound for me. ”

The cultural phenomenon of race has been a recurrent motif Sachs employs in her works.  From Sermons and Sacred Pictures, to Which Way is East (1994) where she traveled extensively with her sister in Vietnam exploring the other side of a collective war memory, to States of UnBelonging (2006) in which she meditated on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict through uncovering the life of an Israeli filmmaker and mother killed in a terrorist attack, before she spent two years working with Chinese immigrants in New York City in her most recent work Your Day is My Night (2013).

Sachs on location for Your Day is My Night

During the making of Your Day is My Night, Lynne was mindful of her position as an outsider, and sensitive to how the people in her film – whom she regards as her collaborators – felt about their collaboration. “After conducting and editing the interviews, I had the contents transcribed and gave them back to each participant so that they could think about what they had said and make factual or dramatic suggestions.”  She and her crew were gradually welcomed into the Chinese community: “After about six months of shooting, the older women began to hold hands with me and one of the older men started to give everyone massages. We often went out for a relaxed Chinese meal, and we spent time together that was informal and fun, not just about shooting or exhibiting our film.” Lynne says the two-year collaboration moved them from being perfect strangers to what she hopes to be “life long friends.”

Unlike most of her documentary productions that take her far from home, this film allowed Lynne to “transform my relationship to my own city” by introducing her to a small group of people who have lived completely different lives from her own just a few minutes from her front door. “Most New Yorkers see Chinatown as a place to eat, that’s it. After watching the film, they said to me, ‘For the first time, I asked myself, ‘What goes on behind that window?’ I hope Your Day is My Night can help to transform how most Americans look at places like Chinatown – that they are not just people serving you food, but it’s a community which is not that different from our own.”

Sachs with the cast of Your Day is My Night

“I am very moved by the ways that we discover so much about the world through interactions with people who are different from ourselves,” says Lynne. “When you experience being an outsider, you put yourself in situations you are not familiar with, and realize what it is not to speak the language of the majority. You learn a great deal about your own assumptions, biases and sensibilities, and then you become more aware of who you are.”

Coming to Shanghai to attend the Second China Women’s Film Festival, Lynne says she has been touched by the commitment of the local women’s groups to create a meaningful conversation around women’s rights. “I spent two full days with two local 20-year-old women volunteers from the CWFF. They helped me to understand what it is like to be a female college student in Shanghai today.”

Attending a film screening at Women Bookstore

The director also has a lot to say about feminism. Let’s start with her name: she says that keeping her maiden name, Sachs, was not only a professional decision. “I honestly never considered changing my name to my husband’s. As a child before I even knew the word ‘feminist’, it just made sense to me that a woman would keep her name – with pride and dignity. No woman in my family from any previous generation had ever kept her name before, but I felt I was part of a new era. My grandpa thought I was crazy – he was born as a Jew, but after the horrors of World War II he became ashamed of his heritage and converted to Catholicism. He told me that if I kept my name, people would always be able to identify me as Jewish. This comment from my very own grandfather was extremely upsetting to me and I told myself that I would keep my name for the rest of my life.” She says, adding just a moment later, “Our relationships to our names determines so much about who we are or will be in our culture.”

“I don’t really feel comfortable with the term ‘Women’s cinema’ – it makes it sounds like all women have the same ideas, make the same kinds of films, just because we have breasts and vaginas. But I don’t think we do. Our works are influenced by many things, they’re multifaceted. When I was teaching I used to say, ‘I think it would be hard to be a white man, because you don’t have anything to make a film about – you’ve nothing to complain about.’” Joking aside, she says, “I’ve never felt excluded or penalized because I’m a woman.”

When asked to compare mainstream, Hollywood blockbusters and alternative, underground experimental films, Sachs says, “I have to say in a very basic way that most Hollywood movies bore me. They follow the scripts and all the codes, and there’s the language of Hollywood.” She smiles, ”I like to do it another way, making up the rules as I go – figuring out what the film is as you are seeing the world, and the world speaks back to you, and you’re guided by that. I believe each film has to invent its own language.”

Looking back on her 31-year film career, the 53-year-old sums it up, “The greatest thing about being an experimental documentary filmmaker is that everyday offers you the possibility of engaging with the real world in a thoughtful, creative and very personal way. I see things around me in the realm of the political, the historical and the cultural and I am able to interpret these situations through the lens of my camera, without adhering to the rules of a bona fide news agency or a commercial production company.”

Chicago’s Cine-File Reviews Your Day is My Night




run of life

RUN OF LIFE: Experimental Documentary Series
Nightingale Cinema’s Christy LeMaster and Kartemquin Film’s Beckie Stocchetti join forces to present RUN OF LIFE, a co-curated experimental documentary and expanded media event running every third Monday.

This new series pairs a recent feature experimental documentary with a short nonfiction work in any number of mediums – performance, video short, interactive presentation, audio doc, etc.


Lynne Sachs’ YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT (New Documentary)
The Run of Life Experimental Documentary Series at Constellation (3111 N. Western Ave.) – Monday, 7pm


“With a subject matter inspired in part by Jacob Riis’ How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York, Lynne Sachs’ YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT is not so much an homage to Riis’ work as it is a modern reimagining of the issues he brought to light. Published in 1890, Riis’ book controversially documented the “shift-bed” lifestyle, among other aspects of the downtrodden immigrant experience, which involved people taking turns sleeping in shared beds. This practice still exists today, and Sachs uses it as a jumping-off point from which to explore various symbolic elements and the collective experiences of her characters. It’s far from a straightforward documentary, but much of what makes it so experimental actually happened off-screen; in 2011, after first learning about “hot bed houses” from a family member, Sachs decided to collaborate with her cast rather than merely film them recounting their stories. As she says in her director’s statement, “While working on YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT, I came to see that every time I asked a person to talk in front of my camera, they were performing for me rather than revealing something completely honest about their lives. The very process of recording guaranteed that some aspect of the project would be artificial.” Thus Sachs met with her subjects (a group of non-professional Chinese “performer/participants”) almost weekly over a year and a half, using the impromptu workshops to script the monologues that provide context to the film’s poetic structure. Sachs uses a combination of 16mm, Super 8, and HD video to disorienting effect; the scenes shot on film are stark in contrast with the crispness of various close-ups shot on video. Additionally, beds are not just a plot device, but also a symbol of the film’s themes (privacy, intimacy, and urban life, among others). In this way, Sachs’ film is also like a gallery installation or a piece of performance art. (Sachs and the cast have presented YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT as a live film performance on several occasions, and the artfulness of its construction combined with its social utility are reminiscent of Riis’ work, which is frequently exhibited in galleries around the world.) This hybrid documentary challenges not only the way such films are made, but also the way we watch and talk about it. Preceded by the sound piece LIGHT READINGS (Stephen Vitiello, 2001, 8 min) and the short film WINDOW CLEANING IN SHANGHAI (Laura Kissel, 2011, 3 min). Cinematographer Sean Hanley in person. (2013, 64 min, HD Digital Projection) KS”


More info at www.constellation-chicago.com.

Lynne Sachs: Disarming Drift by J. Ronald Green in Millennium Film Journal #60

MFJ60_cover-FINAL_4c-frontLynne Sachs: Disarming Drift
by J. Ronald Green
Millennium Film Journal #60
Fall, 2014


I have found several of Lynne Sachs’s films unusually disarming. Wind in Our Hair starts by just hanging out with four barely adolescent girls and seems to drift with them to no evident purpose; one is tempted to say that the attention and impressionistic, closely shot fascination comes from a mother’s affection that a general audience has little reason to feel. By the time a narrative event starts to shape the film, we sort of know these girls, or we start to feel that we are among them by way of the film’s stylistic drifting. A non-incisive drift transforms itself into a thickening bundle of barely perceptible but compelling discourses through which one finds oneself caring about the characters, not as individualized, biographical characters, but as female beings drifting toward a world that is itself drifting toward sexual and political fission, a fission that might be disastrous or revolutionary. The energy that would feed that fission is felt in the experimental music of Juana Molina that accompanies the transcendent avant-garde film poem of the end-credits—the drifting girls have suddenly exploded into articulate girl-power and woman music, just as the drifting Lynne Sachs-made film explodes into incisive experimental film. The stirring success of the music and of the film’s coda suggest a positive future for these drifting girls, while the discourses woven finely into their lives during the entire film remain frighteningly daunting.

There is an analogously disarming feel in Drift and Bough, though it is a totally different kind of film with no character development at all. There I was disarmed by the unassuming succession of art-photo shots of snowy Central Park, shots that seemed pretty ordinary, but that again gently drifted toward a richer collection of elements, such as the graphic lines that did things like scale shifting. The lines of duck trails through the ice-pack—lines that “drew” a kind of benign insinuation into a cold world—seemed to help effect an insinuation into my affect. By the time that film ends, I have been drawn, partially consciously, into a meditative state that I wanted to resist at its beginning. The ending—with people moving about and with bicycle taxi and camera both drifting to the right—was a break in that mood, but it still maintains some of the meditative mood through the realization that a barely perceptible superimposition of nothing very distinguishable has occurred mysteriously for the first and only time in the film.

The disarming feeling in Sachs’s films is especially strong in Your Day is My Night. Again the film starts by hanging out with some ordinary people, in this case Chinese immigrants in a confined space doing ordinary things. We gradually meet these people by name and hear them interact and tell stories. I won’t try to develop how that works, but will just say that somehow this ordinariness changes into—not just the liking and caring about the characters that one can see in numerous effective documentary films such as Salesman and Fallen Champ and The Square and American Pictures, or in the ur-documentary Nanook, and even the surreal Act of Killing—the ordinariness in Sachs’s film changes into something more than those films’ liking of or sympathizing with characters, something more like loving those characters, though that seems a bit strong.

My main point is the experience across several films of this imperceptible transformation from a disarming ordinariness to something strongly opposite. The kicker for me with Your Day is My Night was that I first experienced the film as a documentary, not as a scripted film with actors performing characters via learned lines; thus, my feeling of being disarmed extended to the ontology of the represented reality. That reversal of expectation, from something like Direct Cinema to a set of carefully researched and scripted performances—including the insertion of a “fake” character, Lourdes—comes at different points in the film for different viewers, but that doesn’t really change the reception structure of the film, or the films discussed above—they have little or no character or story arc but have a reception arc that moves one from being disarmed, even being uninterested and dubious, to something stronger than caring and understanding.

Sachs’s refusal to romanticize the glimpses of hopefulness, and her ending of the film with a quotation that re-affirms the power of the world’s alienation, are important contributions to the depth that the reception-arc achieves. Though the film finally leads into territory beyond the opening close-shots of packed human flesh, beyond the later medium-shots of crowded beds within crowded rooms, and the still later long-shots within crowded apartments within a crowded neighborhood of one of the world’s most crowded cities…though the film leads us beyond this over-determined within-ness to other, less impacted parts of the city, indeed leads us to a bridge that Lourdes—the outsider—introduces to Haung, one of the Chinatown shift-bedders—though the film takes us out there to that suggestively transitional bridge, nevertheless the viewer remembers what Haung has said earlier in the film that he has no benign means to get out of this life buried deep within the world situation. He will not ever be able to go home to see his children and he will have to kill himself when he reaches retirement age, perhaps by jumping off a bridge, he says. We remember that line when we see him on the bridge with Lourdes, but we also see that Lourdes has benignly infected his alienation, and has infected the entire over-determined within-ness of the characters’ lives and of the film’s structure. The deep within-ness of the characters’ situations has been broached by the character Lourdes, and by Sachs with her bizarre idea to make a film of these unknown Chinese and the more bizarre idea to introduce a Puerto Rican immigrant deep into this pervading within-ness; Lynne Sachs herself has infected the characters’ alienation, for real, by making this strange film, and thus Sachs opens the documentary people, who play themselves, to Sachs’s world and to the film’s audience. And she opens the viewer to a well-hidden within-ness, through documentary explorations that go deeper than Direct Cinema. All this in a way that is so disarming.

Lynne Sachs MFJ Review Disarming Drift by Ron Green 1Lynne Sachs MFJ Review Disarming Drift by Ron Green 2

Asian American Life TV features Your Day is My Night in Focus on Chinatown Shiftbeds

Asian American Life’s  Minnie Roh brings us to Chinatown, to a community of undocumented immigrants hidden from view who live in a form of housing known as “shiftbeds.”

Featuring excerpts form Your Day is My Night  with a special focus on our beloved wedding singer Yun Xiu Huang. An interview with director Lynne Sachs is also included.


MIFF movie review: ‘Your Day is my Night’








Lynne Sachs has spent 25 years of her young life making films, installations and documentaries from Vietnam to Bosnia and all corners of the world. She is a master of the art and a gifted collector of the tiny moments of the human comedy and tragedy.

At home in New York City, she became intrigued with stories about the “shift bed” people of Manhattan’s Chinatown, a collective of Chinese performers and workers who live in an old apartment building on lower Manhattan’s Hester Street.

In this gorgeous, breathtaking film, “Your Day is my Night,” she takes us deep into an almost fairyland world.

With the camera magic of Sean Hanley, who did the editing as well, and Ethan Mass, Sachs walks us up the long flights of stairs to the heart and home of these pilgrims, all displaced from the big cities and tiny villages of China. Prepare yourself. This is no ordinary documentary. This is film, a canvas, a moving poem. It never stands still. It moves and it moves us.

The film opens with a closeup — and Hanley uses that form throughout — of an old woman waking. Her eyes flutter, her lips move as though trying to rid the taste of a bad dream of ancient memories deep in her DNA.

The camera is there as dawn breaks, with the light of a dirty New York sun turning clean and golden as it fills these rooms. Slowly, there is a montage of awakening bodies, floating white sheets, flowery scarves and cheap, yellowing curtains in a slow Chinese ballet of ever changing color. Stravinsky would have killed to score it, but Stephen Vitiello’s score is proper and enchanting. From here, the day workers go about their tasks throughout the city, and the night workers come home and take their places on the beds made warm by the day people, the sheets still bearing the imprint of the night bodies.

Most of us are shocked by these seemingly airless rooms that are smaller than some people’s closets. They are filled with tiny beds, double decked, triple decked. They first make us think of kennels for humans too complicated to engage. But these are Chinese,and despite the fact that some of them have lived for generations in poverty, they have inherited the gifts to transform each room into musical notes. They hang posters, small pieces of art, photographs and notes on whatever piece of space they have. There are goldfish and small birds. The air is redolent with the aroma of their communal cooking.

We meet seven of the dwellers, all performers, dancers, singers, magicians and actors, as they move through the days and nights of their lives. In Chinese, Mandarin and Cantonese, we learn the stories they’ve brought with them out of the smoke of their pasts.

We meet Chung Che, who was a medical professor in a Chinese university, then came to America and worked as a garment cutter. Eventually, with his medical knowledge, he became a massage therapist.

There is Yun Xiu Huang, a larger than life entertainer, a gregarious Chinese Tom Jones, who has been here for twenty years working as a professional singer and musician. He performs at weddings and Chinese banquets. These tiny rooms shake with his laughter. Some work in building maintenance and restaurants, some teach dance and Chinese music. But all cling to one another like sparrows in a familiar tree.

Lynn Sachs brings seven of them together and steps back, letting the camera of Sean Hanley move among the players. In one sequence, Sachs and Hanley take us to a big Chinese wedding that looks like it was taken from the musical version of “World Of Susie Wong.” In another, the group perform an amateur dance number in home made cowboy costumes, dancing to Bizet’s “Carmen.” Hanley’s closeups, each one, are framable pieces of art, that look as they though they should be illustrating poems. His color and editing are astonishing. He moves from lips to eyes like Vermeer, to hands practicing Tai Chi in the early light and the blue light of evening. Director Sachs places the monologues carefully throughout. One tells of his journey from China as he massages a friend. Another tells his housemates of his family following the great military leader Chiang Kai-Shek from war-torn Peking to Taiwan, where he loses his parents, never to see them again.

An old man,who slept on stone as a child, walks the streets of Manhattan, collecting old mattresses, torn and old, simply because he never had one. These stories are told to one another in their native language, not meant to entertain us. We are merely welcome eavesdroppers, and we find ourselves lucky to be here.

We are in the presence of survivors unlike any we’ve ever known, people who have learned by listening to the inner voices of their ancestors, how to survive war, drought, and famine. I feel you have never seen anything like it.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer and former actor.

Direct Link to review in Kennebec Journal:  http://www.centralmaine.com/2014/07/15/miff-movie-review-your-day-is-my-night/






Your Day is My Night

by Anne Lesley Selcer

“. . . dawn, always new, often superb, inaugurates the return of the everyday.”—Henri Levebvre

“the house protects the dreamer”—Gaston Bachelard

“. . . the non-I that protects the I.”—Gaston Bachelard

Coming into culture is also coming into discipline. It begins with trying to get newborn babies to sleep at night (which they would not otherwise), simple: night from day. The process of subjectivation is palpable, you can trace its progression daily via a series of corrections, separations, instructions. We teach them to be children. There is an argument lurking deeply in here somewhere that art is one level on which politics can get shifted.

What if, after an infancy and subsequent enculturation into sleeping at night, a person got flipped by work into an opposite schedule. Then we have another culture. We have a culture that no longer forms, and is formed by an individual body growing up through concentric circles of mother’s arms, family home, neighborhood, village or town, no longer resonating with, as Henri Lefebvre says, “days, nights, seasons, the waves and tides of the sea, monthly cycles,” a body intensely interrupted, mediated. Then what if that worker did not have a bed, but rented one by the shift? What if that body without a bed also did not yet have citizenship, but also did not have the proper papers to go home again.

This is an argument that the beauty of the film Your Day is My Night — a saturated beauty of texture and proximity, stamped in Chinatown reds and blues, awash in ambivalent New York light — is a palliative beauty. The film is a love song to the singular face. Silently, at the center of the film is the bed, site of dreams, synecdoche for the individual interiority, become a capitalist commodity. The failure of protection — of home, of family, of country — refrain throughout. Here, it is impossible to experience filmic love for the singular face, without also understanding this is a film about the recession of the singular, of the subject.

The project began when Lynne Sachs, curious about the Chinatown shift bed, entered the bustling, open sociality of a Chinese cultural center and asked the people there for stories. She filmed them cooking together, eating together, passing time, and retelling the stories in a small apartment which approximates the spaces where many live. Everything here is aesthetically interesting: the music, the color, the camera variation, the mishmash of things, the pacing, the intimacy between the economically constituted family of the small apartment. She shot in mirrors often to increase light and space among the warren of bunk beds.

Here, we could talk about the social air of a tiny apartment shared by numerous, unrelated adults, about the novel, generative collaboration of the experimental filmmaker with Chinatown residents, or we could talk about the profoundly vulnerable population of Chinese elders living in the enclaves of protection, of shared language and culture, that dot the United States. We could talk about the direct threat posed by the expansion of capital into every interstice of city space evidenced in San Francisco by Ellis Act evictions, of the Lee family, who lived in their Chinatown apartment for thirty-four years, in Vancouver by the destruction of, among other buildings, the Ming Sun Benevolent Society,[1] and portended by the growing number of art studios in New York’s Chinatown. We all know about the rhythm that follows artists around cities. What if we can call the source of the night worker’s interruption what it is essentially: another body, with more capital? Then there is a new rhythm, a rhythm which emanates from the bodies whose needs are so large, that the space of one bed for one dreaming body is unviable.[2] We might consider the shift bed on the same spectrum as the necessity to leave one’s own home country. We might consider that the rhythm of the concentric culture was always a dream.

The artist has shown us our dream, via beauty of the individual face, to the quiet and sweet melody of that dream’s failure. From this contradiction, I surmise a theory of art’s political efficacy in the present: The impulsion to all of us right now is to become very, very small and very hard underneath several layers of total availability, adaptability, flexibility, and precarity, infinitely adjustable by location, schedule, and interface, inside of which is assumed a small core of self, hard, closed, and perpetually vying for its own survival and individual satisfaction. Against this structural adjustment of self into subject, art remains open — and I don’t mean the market which surrounds art, I mean the work of the artist herself who, in lieu of being able still to resonate openly with the rhythms, generations, and seasons, relegates her open flow into object-based play, and each time re-presents the possibility of an open world, to be accessed through the openness of others. That site of encounter with art is the troubled political efficacy of art in this moment. It is troubled because that dear and representative moment of opening is itself commodified, sanctioned, and sectioned off, and the habit of having it, like a porn climax, can stand in for an actually open world.

But I fight on the side of the creator, who, against the self’s structural adjustment does this thing, be it alone, in order to be multiple again. Perhaps that is where it becomes relevant that the subject/actors in Your Day is My Night eventually became a troupe that performed the script live around New York, and to this day hang out with the director. Except Yi Chun Cao, Linda Y.H. Chan, Chung Quing Che, Ellen Ho, Yun Xiu Huang, Sheut Hing Lee, and Kam Yin Tsui still have no real permanent, secure base from which to protect their dreams — and that, of course, is the limitation of art. Art is not a corrective song, perhaps it’s even a vestige. But the human body — the beginning point or end point of the rhythm of Humanist culture, and that which justifies it — is now overtaken by and dissolved into the rhythm itself. No bed, for some, no nation. The film ends with this Fedrico García Lorca poem.

Forgetting does not exist, not dreams

just raw flesh

kisses tie our mouths

in a tangle of new veins.

Those who hurt will hurt without rest,

those who fear death will carry it on their shoulders.

Let there be a panorama of open eyes

and burning bitter wounds.

Nobody sleeps in this world.

No one. No one.

I said it before.

Nobody sleeps.


1. More on the struggle in Vancouver’s Chinatown here: http://friendsof439.wordpress.com/.

2. “Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him.”  Karl Marx, Capital, Chapter 10.


Lynne Sachs makes films, videos, installations and web projects that explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences by weaving together poetry, collage, painting, politics and layered sound design. Since 1994, her five essay films have taken her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel and Germany — sites affected by international war–where she tries to work in the space between a community’s collective memory and her own subjective perceptions. Strongly committed to a dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, Lynne searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in her work with each and every new project. Since 2006, she has collaborated with her partner Mark Street in a series of playful, mixed-media performance collaborations they call The XY Chromosome Project. In addition to her work with the moving image, Lynne co-edited the 2009 Millennium Film Journal issue on “Experiments in Documentary”. Supported by fellowships from the Rockefeller and Jerome Foundations and the New York State Council on the Arts, Lynne’s films have screened at the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival and in a five film survey at the Buenos Aires International Film Festival. The San Francisco Cinematheque recently published a monograph with four original essays in conjunction with a full retrospective of Lynne’s work. Lynne teaches experimental film and video at New York University and lives in Brooklyn. Your Day is My Nightscreened at the Pacific Film Archive on November 20, 2013, curated by Kathy Geritz.


Travel Thoughts – Visiting Beijing

Some thoughts from my time in Beijing:

Getting to know the vibrant film community here in Beijing through the China Women’s Film Festival and the community organizers at the Crossroads Center. The opening ceremony begins this evening.

China Women’s Film Festival opened with stirring images about women’s continued struggles worldwide. I was particularly impressed by the forthright address by the UN representative in China who had an extraordinary grasp of the issues. Saw a great film on the Chinese lesbian film director from the 1940s Esther Eng.

Post #3 from Beijing: I meet an art critic Wang Zhang Wen at the regular weekly NGO meeting at the Crossroads Center in the city’s old hutong neighborhood. In response to my dislike for the famous but rather commercial 798 art district, he offers to take me to the Songzhuang art district on the edge of the city. We go the next day and I discover an incredible live/work area with studios for 5000 artists! If only NYC could offer a community like this that is affordable too! We visit Wang’s cabaret style cafe The Chestnut Tree where he hosts experimental films and readings. He offers coffee from from dainty cups and saucers and tells us that the cafe is named for the Chestnut Tree Cafe in 1984. This was the place, according to the character Winston, where thought criminals spent their time. “Under the spreading Chestnut Tree I sold you and you sold me.”

Post #4 from Beijing: Today I screened Your Day Is My Night to a great, really insightful audience in Bejing as part of the China Women’s Film Festival. later I was on a panel with four brilliant feminist film scholars. What a wonderful, feisty, compassionate group including Yang Hui from Beijing Film Academy, Yushan Huang from Taiwan University of the Arts, Yu Min Mei and Juan Jiang. We all responded to the question “What is a woman’s film?” And on our journey talked about the films of Barbara Hammer, Trinh T Minh-ha, Yvonne Rainer, Susan Sontag, Jane Campion, and many others

China post #6: Shanghai screening tonight of my 1991 film “The House of Science” at a women’s bookstore. All thanks to the nuanced translations of Lesley Yiping Chin who is so capable of articulating the poetry of Gertrude Stein and other mysteries in Chinese.

I saw Liu Chuang “Segmented Landscape” at the Shanghai Art Biennale and was transformed by the way that the work made me think about security, safety, complacency and fear.

Sight & Sound Best Films of 2013 List

Sight and Sound

Published online at Sight & Sound – The International Film Magazine

Best Films of 2013 List
By Sukhdev Sandhu

“New York’s Chinatown, a place as much spectral as real, flickers and flares into life in this singular hybrid of documentary, performance piece and cine-monologue. Seven working-class, immigrant residents of a shift-bed apartment play versions of themselves, recalling violent upheavals, long journeys and endless yearnings. Beautifully scored by Stephen Vitiello, marrying subtle comedy to its dominant mood of dreamy disorientation, and achieving a rare intimacy, it’s one of the most mysterious and magical evocations of the migrant city in many a year.”