2007-05-29

Still Life

A film that just went onto my must-see list is Jia Zheng-ke's Still Life, thanks to a compelling review by Artemisia Ng this week in Asia Pacific Arts. The film explores in intimate terms the human cost of the Three Gorges Dam project in China.

Winner of the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival in 2006, Still Life centers on the plight of coal miners and labourers in the historic city of Fengjie in Sichuan Province. The ancient town was where the legendary heroes of Romance of the Three Kingdoms -- Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei -- waged wars. The area's breathtaking scenery and precipitous cliffs are immortalized in the works of Tang dynasty poets Li Bai and Du Fu. 'I assumed Three Gorges only has a rich regional culture, but once I got there, I realized the local life can fully represent the dilemma of modern China,' he says.

. . .

The director looks away from the political and socio-economic impact on the one million displaced residents who were ordered to leave their ancestral homes and relocated to places as far as Canton and Liaoling provinces. Instead, he focuses on the micro. 'Still Life is not a political commentary or a critique of the economy; it's about the awakening of human consciousness' says Jia.

Artemisia Ng. 'All the Gorgeous People.'
Asia Pacific Arts. UCLA. 2007.05.25

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