A Film Directed by
FRANCISCO BELLO & TIM STERNBERG
A Film Directed by
FRANCISCO BELLO & TIM STERNBERG
DREAMING AGAINST THE WORLD captures the life, work and struggle of one of the most original yet under-recognized artists of the 20th century – the writer and painter Mu Xin – and in doing so offers a vivid account of art and its survival against all odds.
Born in 1927 to a wealthy family in the southern Chinese city of Wuzhen, Mu Xin was among the last generation to receive a classical education in the literati tradition. After the Communists came to power, Mu Xin, along with countless other intellectuals and artists, was arrested and sentenced to hard labor.
It was in prison where Mu Xin demonstrated his incredible resolve and commitment to his artistic vision. During the Cultural Revolution he risked his life to write and paint while incarcerated, creating an astonishing body of work that merged East and West, the ancient and the modern, terror and transcendence.
Structured around intimate and revealing conversations with Mu Xin, as well as with renowned artist Chen Danqing, DREAMING AGAINST THE WORLD is a rich documentary portrait filmed on location in China and New York by OSCAR® and EMMY® Nominated filmmakers Tim Sternberg and Francisco Bello.
Featuring: Mu Xin, Chen Danqing
Running Time: 35 Minutes
In Chinese with English Subtitles
Mu Xin reads an excerpt of his story “HALO.”
DREAMING AGAINST THE WORLD Q&A with filmmakers Francisco Bello, Tim Sternberg, Joanne Wang with Chen Danqing and Asia Society’s Michelle Yun.
Alexandra Munroe, the Samsung Senior Curator of Asian Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, discusses Mu Xin.
Download movie poster.
Interview with DREAMING AGAINST THE WORLD filmmakers by Asia Society.
Article by DREAMING AGAINST THE WORLD filmmakers on the one year anniversary of Mu Xin’s death for Leap Magazine.
New York Magazine article reviewing an exhibition of Mu Xin’s art in 2003.
University of Chicago Chronicle article discusses the life and work of Mu Xin.
Forbes Magazine article on the opening of the Mu Xin museum in Wuzhen, China.
Catalogue by Yale Art
Gallery for Mu Xin’s
exhibition, “A Tower
Within a Tower.”
Mu Xin’s collection of English translated writings, “An Empty Room.”
A collection of essays and an interview with Mu Xin edited by Joanne Wang.
Born Sun Pu, Mu Xin was the pen name of a renowned writer and artist born in 1927 in Wuzhen, China. In 1946, Mu Xin was admitted into Shanghai Fine Art School and in 1949 he became the president of the Hangzhou Painting Studies Society. From the mid 1950s to the early 1980s he secretly wrote 20 books, all of which were confiscated during the Cultural Revolution. During this period Mu Xin was imprisoned three times and while incarcerated he secretly wrote 66 pages of manuscripts, later called “The Prison Notes.” After he was exonerated in 1979, Mu Xin served as the Secretary General of the Chinese Arts and Crafts Association. In 1982, Mu Xin moved to New York and returned to painting and writing, creating over 30 poetry and essay collections published on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. In 2001, his first solo art exhibition opened at the Yale University Art Gallery and was followed by showings at the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, the Honolulu Academy of Arts in Hawaii and the Asia Society Museum in New York. In 2006, Mu Xin returned to his hometown of Wuzhen where he continued to write and paint until his death in 2011. That year, “An Empty Room,” his first collection of prose in English, was published to wide critical acclaim. Since his death his posthumously published books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies in China and a museum dedicated to his work opened in Wuzhen in 2015.
Chen Danqing was born in August 1953 in Shanghai. From 1970 to 1977, he taught himself how to paint when he was resettled to the countryside of Jiangxi and Jiangsu provinces. In 1978, he was enrolled in the Department of Oil Painting in China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and attended the first postgraduate class since the Cultural Revolution. In 1980, he completed his thesis, "The Tibetan Series" — a groundbreaking series of realistic representations of the people of Tibet. From 1980 to 1981, he was a lecturer in the Department of Oil Painting in the Academy of Fine Arts. Starting in 1982, he self-financed studies in New York City while working as a freelance painter. While living in New York, he met Mu Xin and became one of his students. In January 2000, Chen Danqing accepted a position from the Academy of Arts and Design at Tsinghua University. He resigned in 2006 to focus on his own artistic practice, but rejoined the Academy in 2010. He was appointed Director of the Muxin Art Museum, which opened in 2015.
Francisco Bello is an OSCAR® and three time EMMY® nominee. He shot and produced “Salim Baba,” a 2008 Best Short Documentary Oscar and 2009 Emmy Nominee. Francisco produced and edited “War Don Don,” the winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival, for which he was also given the inaugural Karen Schmeer Documentary Editing Award and two Emmy nominations. Additional highlights include editing the Peabody winning “Best Kept Secret,” the Cine Golden Eagle winning “Code of the West,” and the Karen Schmeer Award winning “Our Nixon.” Most recently he co-directed “Dreaming Against the World,” seen at the 2015 Telluride Film Festival, DOC NYC, the New York's Asia Society, the Museum of the Fine Arts in Boston and the China Institute.
Tim Sternberg is the OSCAR® and EMMY® nominated co-director, co-producer and editor on “Dreaming Against the World”. He started his career working in the editing rooms of Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Studios in San Francisco while still in high school. After moving to New York, Tim has worked in positions as diverse as sound effects recorder on Nora Ephron’s "Sleepless in Seattle" and Robert Benton’s “The Human Stain”, re-editing the 1992 OSCAR® winning “Mediterraneo” for US release, script consultant for IFP, and music editing for Milos Forman’s “Goya’s Ghosts” and the OSCAR® winning “The Blood of Yingzhou District” directed by Ruby Yang. In 2008, his directorial debut “Salim Baba” was nominated for an OSCAR® for Best Short Documentary and played in over 100 festivals worldwide including Sundance, Telluride, IDFA Tribeca and Woodstock. After airing on HBO, Canal+ and EBS (Korea), it received an EMMY® Nomination for Outstanding Culture Programming. With Francisco Bello he co-directed HBO’s”El Espiritu de Salsa”, which premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. Under Supervising Editor Walter Murch he worked as an editor and music supervisor on Mark Levinson’s “Particle Fever” in 2013 and recently adapted Hanif Kureishi’s novella “Gabriel’s Gift” into a feature script as well as editing director Brendan Toller’s feature documentary “Danny Says” that premiered at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival.
Scott Mosier produced his first movie, “Clerks”, at age twenty-one with writer-director Kevin Smith. He went on to produce Smith’s “Mallrats”, “Chasing Amy”, “Dogma”, “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”, “Jersey Girl”, “Clerks II”, and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”. Mosier also co-executive produced, with Smith, the Academy Award-winning film, “Good Will Hunting”, and was executive producer/developer of “Clerks: The Animated Series” for ABC. He then moved into animation, producing and co-writing the screenplay for the 3D Animated feature film, “Free Birds”, starring Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson. He is currently producing a new 3D Animated version of The Grinch for Illumination Entertainment.
Mosier also produces documentaries under his Occasional Giant Beard production banner including the Oscar® and Emmy® nominated “Salim Baba” and “Dreaming Against the World” with Francisco Bello and Tim Sternberg, “A Band Called Death,” the story of the greatest band no one ever knew, “Milius,” the story of legendary writer-director John Milius and “Best Kept Secret,” the story of a school in Newark that takes care of kids with severe autism. In his spare time, he is also the 'M' character in SModcast - the popular podcast that he does with Kevin Smith which has hit over 15 million downloads.
Frederick L. Gordon is a collector of Chinese modern and contemporary ink painting. When living in Shanghai in 2010, one year before Mu Xin passed away, he collaborated with the filmmakers Francisco Bello and Timothy Sternberg and artist Chen Danqing to produce “Dreaming Against the World". Gordon worked in finance in New York and San Francisco from 1969–2002 prior to moving to China.
Joanne Wang was born in Beijing, China and attended Fudan University in Shanghai where she majored in English literature. After coming to New York she worked as a literary agent, translator and editor of more than thirty books from China and the US by authors such as Mu Xin, Wang Gang, Xu Xiaobin, Yu Hua, Alfred Corn, Peter Rand, Leslie Li, James Keller, and Marjorie Shaffer. In 2011 she was instrumental in having Mu Xin’s first English collection of prose pieces, “An Empty Room” published by New Directions in the US. She recently started her own publishing company, Four Seasons Press, and was translator and editor for the collection of essays “Mu Xin: a Literary Odyssey”. As a painter and photographer, Joanne had her first solo show in August, 2016 at the Gallery 456 in New York.
Max Avery Lichtenstein is a New York-based film composer whose melodic sensibilities, understated arrangements and creative recording techniques infuse a special character into the movies his music accompanies. Max has written scores and songs for critically-acclaimed narrative features such as “The King”, ”Jesus’ Son”, and ”Far From Heaven”. His scores can be heard in documentaries such as the Academy Award-nominated short “Mondays at Racine”, the Emmy-winning feature ”Very Semi-Serious: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists”, and Jonathan Caouette’s groundbreaking autobiographical film “Tarnation”. In addition to composing for film, Max writes and performs his own songs under the name Camphor.
Christopher Walters began making his own movies when he was seven, had a public access show by the time he was ten and a profitable industrial-video production company when he was twelve. At the age of eighteen he moved from his home town in Canada, to New York City, where he became established as a cinematographer during the internet boom through directorial and photographic collaborations with Heavy.com and Warner Brothers online. Commercial mogul Bob Giraldi noticed this early online work and decided to take Walters into his fold as a commercial cinematographer-in-training. Concurrently, Walters shot and edited over a dozen video projects at Dr Dre’s production company for artists such as Fifty Cent, Snoop Dogg and Dre himself. Fifteen years into his career as a cinematographer, Walters has lensed hundreds of commercials and five feature films. He is a partner in the production company pirate/shark/dinosaur and is founder of a virtual-reality content endeavor, Time Traveler, LLC. Walters is thirty-nine years old and lives in New York City.
Jacob Ribicoff is a New York based sound designer, editor and mixer. His work in sound started in the early 1990s as a Foley Supervisor on the acclaimed documentary, "Brother's Keeper". His early work includes foley editor on "The Cider House Rules", sound editor on "Startup.com", foley Editor on "Gangs of New York", sound editor on "Kissing Jessica Stein", and supervising sound editor on "The Hours". Jacob’s further projects and roles in sound include: sound designer on "The Darjeeling Limited", Music Editor on the Emmy® winning "The War", as well as "The Wrestler", and "Margaret", and supervising sound editor on "Revolutionary Road", "Fantastic Mr. Fox", and the documentary "Buck". He has more recently worked on the documentaries, "Leviathan" and "Where To Invade Next", and the acclaimed features, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl", "The Light Between Oceans", and "Manchester By The Sea".
DREAMING AGAINST THE WORLD was made with the generous support of:
Chen Xianghong, Moving Picture Institute, The Mu Xin Foundation, Queens Council on the Arts
The Rosenkranz Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute, Vital Projects Fund,
and The Wuzhen Tourism Development Corporation