After serving as an assistant to Chen Kaige for three years, Wang Chao started independent directing in 2000, debuting with The Orphan of Anyang. His second movie Day and Night won the Golden Balloon Award, or Best Director Award, at the 25th Three Continents Film Festival in Nantes, France. Now his third movie, Luxury Car (Jiangcheng Xiari), has been entered in this year's Cannes film festival, in the non-competitive section (Un Certain Regard). The film is slated for screening in China at the end of June.
The story follows Li Qiming, a village schoolteacher who travels to Wuhan to look for his son, Xueqin, who has run away from home after failing the college entrance exam. What he doesn't know is that his son has been killed during a carjacking, carried out by the boyfriend of Li's daughter, Yanhong. The film stars Wuhan native Tian Yuan, who is also a writer and singer, as well as an actress.
tbj: Why did you choose Wuhan as the setting for this movie?
Wang Chao: I think Wuhan is a very typical Chinese city. It reflects the current China more accurately than Beijing or Shanghai. Two long rivers run through this city: the Yangtze and the Han. During the day you can see a lot of ordinary people taking ships across the river to work. Along the riverside, there are still some old British or French buildings left from the pre-revolution era. The city is a combination of tradition and modernity, urban and rural. It is representative of most cities in central China.
tbj: Compared to your first two movies, what's the main feature of your latest, Luxury Car?
WC: Some people say my last movie is good but it won't sell well outside of France. I don't want that. This time I took more effort in the screenwriting, learning some techniques from Hollywood movies and trying to make the story more pleasant to watch. As time went by, I came to understand a principle in filmmaking: only use the most ordinary ways of doing your film. That way you can reach the audience directly.
tbj: Why do your movies always reflect the lives of marginalized people?
WC: My movie is a reflection of my inner feelings. Through the characters in the movie, I'm searching for the allegiances of my heart. Also, religion has had a significant influence in my art [ed note: Wang is a Christian]. In earlier days, when I wrote poems, I was only concerned about the small world of myself. Religious belief has changed my view of the world, expanded my vision, so that I care about other people's lives.
tbj: Your movies are well received in France. What do you think of this?
WC: France is a nation that likes to accept different kinds of cultures. I'm glad they like my movies, but I'm also glad that my movies can be seen and liked by Chinese audiences. Sometimes I feel puzzled when I see my movies in a cinema in Paris. So this time I'm really glad that Chinese audiences can watch my third movie.
tbj: Which Chinese director do you most admire?
WC: Fei Mu. As I watched his movie Spring in a Small Town in Paris, I felt deeply moved. It's really a good movie, and has reached a high level of achievement, such as is rarely seen today.
Wang Chao's Filmography
The Orphan of Anyang (2001)
Day and Night (2005)
Luxury Car (2006)
(That's Beijing June 30, 2006)