12 Αυγούστου 2008

EN-Zhang Yimou's real China

We all admired the grandiose openning ceremony directed by the acclaimed Chinese filmmaker and cinematographer Zhang Yimou. A great power able to coordinate thousands of actors, musicians and dancers to provide a unique spectacle.

However, China is not the illusion Zhang Yimou created to impress the world. The real China is the one he portayed in his less-known (but nevertheless acclaimed) films «Not one less» and «Happy times hotel».

«Not one less» is a story about the persistence of a 13-year old girl who is called upon to replace a primary school teacher in a remote chinese village. She must keep the students from going away, as is very often the case with young boys and girls in poor villages, who must go off and work to help sustain their families. When one of her pupils does not show up for lessons she will try everything to find him and bring him back. A view of rural and urban China light years away from Beijing and the Olympics. It won the 1999 Golden Lion Award at the Venice film festival, as well almost a dozen other awards in China and abroad. It shows the faith China puts in education and in its youth and it helps explain why so many children were given a prominent role at the openning ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. A great power is made first of all in the classroom, not in the battlefields.

The «Happy times hotel», tells the story of a blind girl who finds herself under the supervision of an unemployed bachelor. With the help of his friends he creates an illusion for the girl. She is led to believe that he works in a rich hotel where she gets engaged as a masseuse. A view of urban China with its unemployment and its human side, its solidarity and its sentimentalism. Some of these traspired through the songs performed at the openning ceremony but again the image projected in Beijing is nothing compared with the image projected in the film which won three prizes at the Valladolid international film festival, one for «its powerful appeal to preserve the human hopes for happiness, made in a humorous-drama style».

Of course Zhang Yimou has also given us several other masterpieces, including «Raise the Red Lantern», the «House of Flying Daggers» and «Hero». But I find the two films I mentioned above as real masterpieces for the everyday China we will not be seeing through the polished up images of the Beijing Olympics. And the China which will dominate the future.

P.S. I used the word «illusion» a couple of times in this post. Before the ink was dry, we learned that the little girl in the red dress who sang during the openning ceremony was just miming - the real singer's face was not as charming as to be shown on the TV sceens of billions of viewers. And the 29 firework "footprints" which travelled across Beijing's sky during the opening ceremony were also fake as they came from previously recorded footage.

1 σχόλιο:

Nerine είπε...

People should read this.