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Independent cinema has been at the forefront of socially-engaged filmmaking in the China since its emergence in the 1990s. Marginalised and largely inaccessible domestically, this cinema has nonetheless functioned as a dynamic counterweight to official discourse around art, truth, history, reality and ethics, while simultaneously exploring alternative spaces, places, voices, and images that have been ignored or misrepresented in mainstream Chinese media. An independent exhibition culture, developed since the beginning of the twenty-first century, has further expanded the public space for these films, facilitating the formation of a unique film culture that has attracted critical acclaim and international attention.

CIFA is managed by its executive committee and supported by a multi-national Advisory Board comprised of prominent filmmakers, curators and scholars of Chinese independent cinema around the world. It works closely with a large number of Chinese independent filmmakers and curators, as well as a range of industry partners, including arthouse cinemas, film festivals and film institutions. It also works with scholars and universities to conduct research on Chinese independent films and encourage the use of the CIFA for research on, and the teaching of, modern and contemporary China.