Programme

CHINESE PORTRAIT

Xiaoshuai Wang

Hong Kong, China, 2018 / 79 min / Without dialogue / Documentary

A personal portrait of contemporary China.

Shot over a decade, Wang Xiaoshuai’s state-of-the-nation documentary charts the evolution of contemporary China in a compilation of intimate portraits: passers-by in Beijing streets, a peasant hoping for the rain to fall, steelworkers in disappearing factories, a tourist on a packed beach, a construction worker after an earthquake, a fisherman repairing his fishnets. The resulting scenes are fascinating, moving photographs that capture a country, a population and a society. A sensory experience of the Chinese New Wave.

“The director shows us a modern China that's a rich mix of new buildings and old courtyards, derelict industrial sites, countryside and big cities. What's most striking here is the seemingly endless amount of construction projects. This film is a motionless, non-narrative snapshot that calls a temporary halt to all this inexorable change.” IDFA – International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam

 

Screenings

“The movie captures the characters of the spaces in fragmented pieces to show the overall aspects of Chinese society. When you match the pieces, you can see contemporary Chinese society. The latest film by Wang Xiaoshuai, renowned for Beijing Bicycle […] goes beyond the strong narrative. Chinese Portrait crosses the boundaries of films, photography, and art images.” Lee Seung-min, Busan International Film Festival

Chinese Portrait is a record of how China has changed over the past decade. Images of people leading provincial, traditional lives – fishermen mending their nets by the sea, potato farmers cultivating windswept fields, Buddhists and Muslims practising their religious rituals – are juxtaposed with sequences showing modern offices, bustling urban junctions and beaches bursting with revellers. […] Chinese Portrait is also Wang’s personal contemplation of his own passage through contemporary history. In one of a handful of shots featuring Wang, the director is seen standing in Tiananmen Square, perhaps an allusion to how his life has been marked by the mainland’s social and political upheaval. He is then shown standing in the last carriage of a train as rural landscapes whizzby – a reference to his family’s relocation from Shanghai to the southwestern city of Guiyang during the Cultural Revolution. Mostly, however, Wang stays out of the fray and allows other people and landscapes to speak for themselves – and the wide (and widening) social chasms he captures are certainly worrying. […] With its panoramic survey of China and the many historical and social forces shaping the lives of those living in it, Chinese Portrait could be seen as supplementing Wang’s ongoing attempt to produce three decade-spanning dramas dubbed the “Homeland Trilogy”. […] As he has done in the past through fiction, Wang uses the documentary form to point at the disparity between rich and poor. The urban bourgeoisie are shown spending their holidays in the sun and the rural underclass praying for rain in China’s arid interior. While not exactly offering a hard-hitting cri de coeur about the country’s problems, Wang provided plenty for the viewer to reflect on – which, in the current political climate in China, is an achievement in itself.” Clarence Tsui, South China Morning Post, 12/02/2018

Cast & Credits
Cast 
Di Wu, Hui Zeng, Jian Zeng, Xinghai Piao
Sound 
Valérie Loiseleux
Set 
Dong Lv
Production 
Chinese Shadows, Front Films Co., WXS Productions, Dongchun Films (Beijing) Co., Ltd., Chinese Shadows
Distribution 
Asian Shadows
Biography

WANG Xiaoshuai graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 1989 and is one of the figureheads of the “Sixth Generation” of Chinese filmmakers who started their careers in the early 90s, marked by the events of the Tian’anmen Square. Since his first feature film that he directed at the age of 27, Dongchun de rizi (1993), his work has focused on contemporary China and themes social issues such as substance abuse, drifting youth, divorce. His films often had difficulty passing censorship in China, but they attracted a lot of attention abroad and were regularly selected at major film festivals. His filmography includes acclaimed Beijing Bicycle (2001 – Silver Bear, Berlin Film Festival), Shanghai Dreams (2005 – Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival), In Love We Trust (2007 – Silver Bear for Best Screenplay, Berlin Film Festival 2008), and 11 Flowers (2011), the first official co-production between France and China. His latest fiction feature, Red Amnesia (2014), was selected in competition for the Golden Lion at the 71st Venice International Film Festival. In 2016, Wang Xiaoshuai joined the Luxembourg City Film Festival as president of the International Jury.

Filmography
  • 2018 – Chinese Portrait (documentary)
  • 2015 – The Cornfield (short)
  • 2014 – Red Amnesia
  • 2012 – L'archivio a oriente (documentary)
  • 2011 – 11 Flowers
  • 2010 – Chongqing Blues
  • 2007 – In Love We Trust
  • 2006 – The New Year (short in the "After War" collection)
  • 2005 – Shanghai Dreams
  • 2003 – Drifters
  • 2001 – Beijing Bicycle
  • 1999 – The House
  • 1998 – So Close to Paradise
  • 1996 – Jidu hanleng
  • 1994 – The Great Game
  • 1993 – Dongchun de rizi