Monocolumn: Filmmaker’s Surprise At Inclusion In Shanghai Expo

Monocolumn: Filmmaker’s Surprise At Inclusion In Shanghai Expo

The Shanghai World Expo is nothing if not forward-looking. But one feature seems startlingly out of place: the screenings of filmmaker Jia Zhangke’s new documentary, I Wish I Knew.

  • 12 august 2010

Monocolumn- Filmmaker’s surprise at inclusion in Shanghai Expo

Monocolumn is Monocle’s daily bulletin of news and opinion. Catch up with previous editions here.

The Shanghai World Expo is nothing if not forward-looking. In China’s continuing zeal to put forth its best face to the world, it has spared little expense in making this showcase as impressive and futuristic as possible, from the microchip-embedded tickets to the funnel-shaped, glass-and-steel “sun valleys” along the main Expo thoroughfare that glow a magnificent neon blue at night.

But one feature seems startlingly out of place: the screenings of filmmaker Jia Zhangke’s new documentary, I Wish I Knew. The movie is about Shanghai’s past – a past some residents would rather soon forget.

That Jia has been included in the programme of events is more than a little surprising – he used to be banned from making films in China. The director spent several years in official purgatory after his first film, Xiao Wu, about a thief in a run-down interior Chinese city, ran afoul of the authorities, but he continued making movies on the sly anyway.

Then, in 2004, he decided to come in from the cold, submitting his feature The World for official release in China. Jia has since established himself as one of the leaders of the “Sixth Generation” of Chinese filmmakers, known for his realistic and gritty portrayals of life on the margins of society in hyper-modernising China. He’s also become a rising star abroad, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2006 for Still Life, a moody drama about peasants displaced by the Three Gorges Dam project.

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