An van. Dienderen

Belgian filmmaker An van. Dienderen (°1971) has made several internationally acclaimed documentaries, and writes on visual anthropology, cultural diversity and urbanization. Her work focuses on the relationship between artistic processes and society. She investigates the opposition of fact and fiction, imagination and observation, and representation and experience, using the importance of the image in our multicultural society as the point of departure. The work of An van. Dienderen shows the absurd, poetic and often touching stories that these oppositions can hold in everyday life.


film, sound, 11′ 15″
Commissioned and coproduced by CONTOUR 7

In a TV studio a girl named Lili (played by Belgian actress Maaike Neuville) is asked to serve as a so-called China Girl. China Girls, used in cinema history since the 1920s, are women with Caucasian skin who are filmed alongside a colour-chart in order to adjust the colours of the film. They have no dialogue to memorize or character to impersonate. Their only role is to have an impeccable white complexion. Their skin – white as porcelain – is used as a reference for the colour grading of camera and printing, ultimately excluding people of colour who do not conform to this implicit norm. Lili tells the story of a China Girl through archival material, found footage and documentary recordings. It questions the tradition of China Girls, contextualised in a society which, according to anthropologist Michael Taussig, exemplifies chromophobic uneasiness with colour.