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Beijing Students Support Still Life
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Thirty-six-year-old Chinese director Jia Zhangke was the surprise winner of the top honor for best feature film at the 63rd Venice Film Festival in early September. He's the second Chinese mainland director to win this major film award after Zhang Yimou.

Jia Zhangke brought his film Still Life to the Peking University Hall last night and showed his sparkling Golden Lion sculpture for the first time to the Chinese audience.

That is one of the scenes in film Still Life, known in Chinese as San Xia Hao Ren, or The Good People of the Three Gorges.

The film tells the love stories of two separated couples who meet again in the village. A miner comes back to the village to look for his wife. They finally reunite as another nurse returns for her husband, but they choose to part. Nonetheless, the four all learn the essence of true love. The movie is a documentary-style film shot in a village in the Yangtze River town of Fengjie, which was destroyed by the building of China's Three Gorges Dam.

A Beijing brief preview was held on Monday night, which attracted many students from Peking University and other college students and residents nearby. All the 2,400 tickets were sold out before the film opened. Some students even hung slogans to show their support.

The art film can be divided into four episodes: the cigarette, wine, tea and toffee. The director explains.

"The basic needs to maintain a happy life are very simple: cigarettes, wine, tea and toffee. The farmers and workers who live in the remote villages can live for year on cigarettes, wine, tea and toffee. They will feel a sense of happiness."

Still Life beautifully captures the town and the lives and relationships of those living within it. Even in the face of deconstruction, these people still try to pursue beautiful loves and lives. Although they live ordinary lives, the characters in "Still Life" take on a more active attitude in pursuing what they want.

Jia Zhangke gave a brief but moving speech about shooting the film at the preview last night. He talked about how the idea came to him and why he decided to reveal the natural lives of the village people from the special eyes of a people from Shanxi province. When explained why he chose his brother Han Sanming to be the lead actor, Jia Zhangke was so moved, he wept twice on the spot.

Regarding why he choose the same time period to compete at the new year box office with commercial blockbusters such as Curse of the Golden Flower, Jia Zhangke said, "There should not be only one kind of film in our cinemas. The two different genres of movies cannot be compared with each other, so they might not compete for the box office."

From December 7 to 14, the film will travel to 10 major Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Nanjing and Chongqing, for previews before it premieres across the country on December 14 in Guangzhou.

Jia Zhangke was born into an ordinary family in a county in Shanxi province. He is a moving force behind Chinese film's so-called Sixth Generation. Jia Zhangke gained wide international acclaim after his first full-length movie.

(CRI December 5, 2006)


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