THE China Independent Film Festival, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in Newcastle next month, offers a unique insight into the world’s most populated country.

It is the first time the internationally-renowned indie festival – which has been dogged by government interference in China for several years – has come to the UK.

Newcastle University’s Dr Sabrina Qiong Yu, who is co-organiser of the festival, says the aim is to deliver a more realistic picture of China, which is currently difficult to achieve from either the media or mainstream Chinese blockbusters.

Audiences during the four day festival - which starts on May 12 and ends on May 15 - will get a rare glimpse into contemporary China through some of the best independent documentaries, fictions and animations from the past decade.

Independent filmmakers have a difficult time making a living in China. It is an often dangerous occupation, and unless their film passes China’s strict censorship laws and is not deemed a ‘sensitive topic’ (which can cover anything from homosexuality to unemployment) then it will not get permission to be shown anywhere in the country. As there is no financial support available, most are self-funded through friends and filmmakers and rarely make any money.

“The fact that it is hard to make films about sensitive topics in China is one of the biggest obstacles we have to developing our film industry,” says Dr Yu, who is a lecturer in Chinese film studies at Newcastle University.

Films being shown during the festival in Newcastle include many of the ‘sensitive topics’: from No.89 Shimen Road (2010), about the Tiananmen Square student demonstrations, to Madame (2010) about a drag queen, and the popular The Piano in a Factory (2010), a fiction film about a group of factory workers who lost their jobs when their plant closed down.

All the events are free of charge. For more information about venues and screening times visit