Since childhood, I have always enjoyed observing passersby in the streets. For some reason, these strangers busily shuffling to and fro gave me a mysterious but heartwarming feeling. At times, out of the blue, I would imagine how these people lived. Were they leading lives similar to mine? Were their rooms, their meals, the things on their tables, their families, and their troubles all like mine?
My biggest fear is to one day lose interest in other people. Fortunately for me, the act of making documentaries helps to eliminate such fears. Human beings are prone to gradually lose affinity towards others. However, the handful of documentary filmmakers in our world can open up our lives, and dispel this sense of isolation. And something even more important: whenever I shoot a documentary, I feel my weakening sense of justice and courage slowly flowing back into my body, and experience a powerful realization that every single life, including mine, is abundant with human dignity.
Film is one kind of recording device. Thus, documentaries, capturing the traces of our existence onto film, are perhaps a means to resist our tendency to forget.
Born 1970 in China’s northern province of Shanxi, Jia Zhangke entered an art university in Taiyuan, Shanxi’s capital, when he was eighteen to study oil painting. In 1993 he entered the Beijing Film Academy, and founded an independent film production group, directing Xiao Shan Going Home. Upon graduation, his film Xiao Wu (Pickpocket) won the Wolfgang Staudte Prize and NETPAC Award at the 1998 Berlin International Film Festival and the Grand Prix at Festival of the 3 Continents in Nantes, France. His epic film Platform (2000) won the NETPAC Award at the Venice International Film Festival and the Grand Prix at the film festivals in Buenos Aires and Nantes; and he filmed In Public (2001) for the Jeonju International Film Festival production Digital Short Films by Three Filmmakers (screened at YIDFF 2001). Unknown Pleasures screened in the competition section at Cannes, 2002. However, because his previous films were banned in China, The World is his first film to have been released in Chinese theaters.
JAPAN, FRANCE, CHINA / 2004 / Mandarin / Color / 35mm (1:2.35) / 133 min
Director, Script: Jia Zhangke
Photography: Yu Likwai
Editing: Kong Jinlei
Sound: Zhang Yang
Art Director: Wu Lizhong
Cast: Zhao Tao, Chen Taishen, Wang Hongwei
Executive Producers: Mori Masayuki, Hengameh Panahi, Chow Keung
Producers: Yoshida Takio, Ichiyama Shozo
Production Companies: Bandai Visual, Tokyo FM, Dentsu, TV Asahi, Bitters End, Lumen Films, Xstream Pictures, Office Kitano
World Sales: Celluloid Dreams
Tao is living out her dreams as a dancer at World Park, a theme park where visitors can see replicas of famous world monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and the Pyramids without ever leaving Beijing’s suburbs. Tao and her boyfriend, Taisheng, moved to the big city from the countryside a few years ago, but recently, Taisheng has become attracted to Qun, a fashion designer. Meanwhile, Tao’s fellow dancers have their own romantic issues. Xiaowei questions her future with irresponsible boyfriend Niu, while Youyou uses romance to achieve her professional ambitions. Unfortunately, not everyone who comes to Beijing with high hopes can land well-paying jobs. Many, like manual laborer Erxiao, experience a much harsher reality. Yet, even theme park microcosms are vulnerable to change. For Tao and her friends, there will be marriage and break-up, loyalty and infidelity, joy and tragedy.