In this week’s installment of our ongoing weekly series in which we profile the most interesting independent animation filmmakers working today, we profile Chinese animator Xi Chen, whose cut-out films take a slow dive into personal stories in order to tackle larger societal and cultural issues in China.
In a sentence: Combining a love of silent films and stop motion with a hint of Igor Kovalyov’s design and unique pacing (itself influenced by Robert Bresson), Chen’s poetic and personal films explore individual stories of love, loss, and lust while providing insights into modern Chinese history.
Where to start: A Fly in the Restaurant (2018). Told from what seems to be the perspective of a rotating ceiling fan, the patiently paced, cut-out film follows the action of a local restaurant (which has a banner on the wall that reads “Revolution is Not a Dinner Party”) as a cook chases a fly while a variety of patrons mingle, eat, and sleep. As people come and go, we get glimpses of life outside the restaurant. Through action, and inaction, Chen comments on a complacent population unaware or uninterested in the enveloping social and political issues.