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Date and Location

April 4, 2024
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM ET
David Ellwood Democracy Lab (r-414)


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Independent films are vital to a nation’s public interest. What happens when market and political forces impact their production and circulation? In this informal conversation with Jian Yi, Shorenstein fellow Karin Chien charts the evolution of her work at dGenerate Films, acquiring independent Chinese films and releasing them in the US through a partnership with Icarus Films. By centering authorship, the 75 films in dGenerate’s collection celebrate the vital perspectives and extraordinary creativity of their makers. dGenerate’s latest release is Youth, a 3.5 hour documentary which played to soldout audiences at Metrograph and Lincoln Center, after being the first documentary in 20 years selected for competition at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. The talk will be moderated by Elsie Chen.



Karin Chien is a producer and distributor committed to bold voices and innovative forms that build practices of ethical filmmaking. For 20 years, Karin has produced independent films, artwork and digital media that have broken new ground. She has received the Independent Spirit Producers Award, the Humanitas Prize, the Sundance Audience Award, the inaugural Cinereach Producers Award, and served as the 2022 Sundance Film Festival’s Producers Keynote speaker. Karin is the Founder & President of distribution company dGenerate Films; a co-founder of the collective Distribution Advocates; and the director of the Nevada City Artist Residency. During her fellowship, Karin’s research will focus on how the most impactful documentary projects get funded and present recommendations for new economic models that center sustainability and creative risk. In particular, the research will explore a shift from project-based documentary funding to producer-led models, where new forms can emerge.

Jian Yi is an independent filmmaker and food activist. In 2008 he founded the IFChina Original Studio, a citizen participatory media project, and he founded the Good Food Fund in 2017, which leads in promoting transforming China's food system transformation. They also run a Good Food Summit and a Good Food Festival in China every year.

Yi's films have won international awards and shown at numerous venues across the globe including New York's MoMA. He made What's For Dinner? in 2009, the first China-made short documentary on meat consumption and its impact on the environment. He also co-founded the Food Forward Forum with Yale Hospitality in 2019.

Jian Yi is currently a visiting fellow with Harvard Law School's Animal Law and Policy Program, and was an MC/MPA Mason Fellow, a Glietsman Leadership Fellow with the Harvard Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership and a Post-Master Fellow with the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. 

Elsie Chen was a China researcher for The New York Times. She was part of a team that won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in public service for coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

She has covered youth counterculture, gender issues and demographics in China. In 2020, she was on a team of Times journalists that was named a finalist in the journalistic innovation category by the Society of Publishers in Asia for an investigation into police abuse during the 2019 Hong Kong anti-government protests.

She grew up in the Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Wenzhou and is fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and Wenzhounese. She graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a master’s degree in journalism.

We will have a light breakfast spread! This event is co-sponsered by the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation​.


Speakers and Presenters

​Karin Chien; Jian Yi; Elsie Chen