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In Competition: "24 City" by Jia Zhangke

The film

Chinese director Jia Zhangke, President of the Cinéfondation and short films Jury in 2007, is at the Festival with 24 City, a feature screening in Competition. The title refers to a luxury condominium community in Chengdu, built on the site of an old factory and the workers' housing which used to surround it.

Jia Zhangke, who was in Official Selection in 2002 for Unknown Pleasures, and awarded the Golden Lion at the 63rd Venice Film Festival in 2006 for Still Life, had this to say about his latest endeavor: "The film is made up of interviews with five workers, who share their real-life experiences with us, and of fictional monologues by three women. I decided to integrate documentary and fiction in this parallel flow because this seemed to me the best way of representing the last half-century of Chinese history. As far as I'm concerned, history is always a blend of facts and imagination. This state-owned factory which supplies the Air Force and other sectors of the military was founded 60 years ago. It has weathered all of the successive political movements under the communist government. I'm not interested in chronicling this history as such, but rather in seeing how a century of experiments with socialism has impacted the fate of the Chinese people."

 

Press conference: 

The entire 24 City crew gathered in the press-conference room to meet the press. Director Jia Zhangke was joined by actresses Joan Chen and Zhao Tao, as well as the film's co-producers Shozo Ichiyama and Chow Keung. After observing a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the recent earthquake which devastated cities in Sichuan Province, they fielded questions. Excerpts follow.

Jia Zhangke on the mixture of documentary and fiction genres:
"China is going through a huge transformation as it makes the transition from a planned economy to the free market. I really wanted to make a film about this reality, this new influence on people's lives. I began by filming about a hundred interviews with workers. Then, I asked myself about the idea of combining the two genres: having a documentary part followed by a fiction part. Isn't that the best way to get information full of the depth necessary to speak of History with a capital H?"

Jia Zhangke on choosing filming locations:
"Factory 420 is the repository of fifty years of history; tens of thousands of workers spent much of their lives here. That involves a large number of families, and their entire experience. Likewise, the factory is special in that it was about to be demolished to make way for a real-estate scheme called "24 City." It was obvious to me that the memory of the planned economy, a subject that mattered a lot to me, was going to disappear. I had to begin shooting quickly. This change is emblematic of the speed at which China is evolving."

Jia Zhangke on his personal evolution:
"In preparation for 24 City, I immediately dove into my country's memories. One often finds the answers to issues facing contemporary society by delving into the past. In my evolution as a filmmaker, this film enables me to build a new bridge between the era I live in and historical references."

Joan Chen on the recent Chinese earthquake:
"Jia Zhangke has an acute sense of observation, especially when he is looking at common people. He evokes the sweeping changes currently taking place in China, and their effect on such people. The victims of the earthquake came from just the social class Jia Zhangke describes with such empathy. I hope that if this film is successful, it will help comfort the people of Sichuan, and that we can dedicate it to them."

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