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Still maybe my favourite contemporary Chinese filmmaker (auteur? If you please!), Jia ZhangKe’s films are, in his own words, but also quite visibly, about ordinary people in typical Chinese settings. This means the people are usually neither rich nor do they live in the prosperous Eastern cities. If they do (as in Shi Jie – The World), then they are caught in a desolate wasteland from where they can only observe the new wealth puring into the country.
Some interesting bits about this interview with Good magazine: I never knew what it means to be “banned from making film” on a practical level, but Jia mentions it, telling about his experience after being subjected to such a ban in 1999:
“So, when I made Pickpocket, I gave no thought to the censors. We just wanted to make the film the way we wanted. In 1998 it showed at the Berlin film festival, and then in 1999 I was banned from making films. This ban had no expiration date, and it meant that I was on a blacklist at all the postproduction companies in Beijing and Shanghai, saying that I couldn’t borrow equipment or develop film.”

And on the notion of piracy:
“In the context of China, I also think DVD piracy is useful. I went through a long period during which my knowledge of film came from reading scripts, or listening to other people’s descriptions. I knew about Godard, Truffaut, and films like Kramer vs. Kramer and On Golden Pond, but I hadn’t seen any of them. China had these films, but they were locked away in an archive, to be seen by film insiders and people with special privileges.”
The end of the article has a list of his films, useful as a checklist, because I just realise I still have not yet seen “Dong” and “Useless”, his latest documentaries. There is also another list of recommended non-Jia movies, most of which are pretty decent.

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