Acclaimed Chinese director Jia Zhangke casts a compassionate eye on the daily loves, friendships and desperate dreams of the twenty-somethings from China’s remote Provinces who come to live and work at Beijing’s World Park. A bizarre cross-cultural pollination of Las Vegas and Epcot Center, World Park features lavish shows performed amid scaled-down replicas of the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, St. Mark’s Square, the Pyramids and even the Twin Towers. From the sensational opening tracking shot of a young dancer’s backstage quest for a Band-Aid to poetic flourishes of animation and clever use of text-messaging, Jia pushes past the kitsch potential of this surreal setting—a real-life Beijing tourist destination. The Village Voice called Jia Zhangke “the world’s greatest filmmaker under forty.”
Winner of the Best Foreign Language Film at the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards and was nominated for a Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.
Directed by Jia Zhangke.
2004, China/Japan/France • 143 mins. • 35mm
About Lecturing Professor Lu Tonglin:
Lu Tonglin is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Montreal. She has Masters degrees from the University of Montreal and Princeton University, and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton. She is the author, among other things, of (Cultural Criticism on Both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Hong Kong University Press, 2004); Confronting Modernity: Contemporary Cinema in Taiwan and Mainland China (Cambridge University Press, 2001); Misogyny, Cultural Nihilism, and Oppositional Politics: Contemporary Chinese Experimental Fiction (Stanford University Press, 1995), and Rose and Lotus: Narrative of Desire in France and China (SUNY Press, 1992).
Lu Tonglin Lecture Abstract:
Is China communist? Yes and no: yes, the Communist Party still governs as the representative of people in the name of socialist state; no, the country has radically changed its economic and political direction from its past Maoist ideology. Is China capitalist? Yes and no: yes, it has become the ideal land of global capitalism, as the largest source of labour supply to multinational corporations and as their potentially most profitable market; no, the one-party’s power still regulates most social areas, overwhelming the inchoate legal system, of which a relatively “normal” function is indispensable to a market economy. China is thus situated between a Communist past on the verge of disappearing and a capitalist future that is yet to come. In this stage of fantasy, everything seems possible but almost nothing is realizable.
Jia Zhangke’s 2004 film, The World, presents an amusement park à la Disney in the suburb of Beijing where migrant workers from his home province serve as (female) dancers or as (male) guards. The film crosscuts between spectacles of global wealth and gloomy life of local workers, between the cheerful animations and the depressing adventures of its protagonists (a couple composed of a dancer and a guard). Despite its documentary low-key style, reality located in various virtual worlds appears unreal, as the film concludes in a limbo between life and death and between the beginning and the ending. Paradoxically because Jia has no pretence to allegorical representation of China, its film accurately captures its fantasy space as a world of virtual reality.
Co-sponsored by the Humanities Research Institute
and the Center for Asian Studies