This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Jia Zhang-ke will be on hand for MoMA retrospective of his films (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Jia Zhangke will be on hand for MoMA retrospective of his films (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
March 5-20
Tickets: $10, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk

Somehow Jia Zhangke, a leader of China’s Sixth Generation of filmmakers, was able to graduate from producing underground works to being accepted by the Chinese government, despite his intensely moving and compelling films that focus on the real problems the Chinese people are facing in the massive transition to modernity. Jia’s films range from three-minute shorts to three-hour epics, bridging the gap between narrative and documentary, fiction and nonfiction. Jia turns forty this year, and MoMA is paying tribute to him with a midcareer retrospective, from such widely hailed films as PLATFORM, PICKPOCKET, and STILL LIFE to such lesser-known, rarely screened works as XIAO SHAN GOING HOME, INPUBLIC, and CRY ME A RIVER. On March 8, as part of MoMA’s Modern Mondays series, “An Evening with Jia Zhangke” will include screenings of BLACK BREAKFAST and WO MEN DE SHI NIAN (TEN YEARS), an excerpt from his latest feature, and a conversation with the director and critics Howard Feinstein and Kevin B. Lee. Jia will also introduce all of the screening being held March 5-8. Jia is a superb filmmaker with an impressive body of work; be sure to take advantage of at least one of these very special events.

THE WORLD kicks off retrospective of the unique films of Jia Zhang-ke

THE WORLD kicks off retrospective of the unique films of Jia Zhang-ke

SHI JIE (THE WORLD) (Jia Zhangke, 2004)
Friday, March 5, introduced by the director and star Zhao Tao, 7:00
Sunday, March 14, 2:00
Jia Zhangke’s fourth film (following PICKPOCKET, PLATFORM, and UNKNOWN PLEASURES) is set in a Beijing theme park called the World, where people come to see miniature versions of major international cities and landmarks, including Paris, New York, London, and Tokyo, the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, the World Trade Center, Big Ben, and the Eiffel Tower. The luminous Zhao Tao stars as Tao, a park dancer dating security guard Taisheng (Chen Taisheng). She becomes friendly with Anna, a Russian woman who has come to the park to make money so she can reunite with her daughter. However, dreams don’t always come true in this microcosm of urbanization. As Tao questions her relationship with Taisheng, he starts seeing Qun (Wang Yiqun), a fashion designer who makes knock-offs and is trying to return to her husband, who lives in Belleville. Meanwhile, Xiaowei (Jing Jue) is trapped in an abusive relationship with Niu (Jiang Zhongwei) that threatens to explode. THE WORLD is a charming little film, not looking to make any grand statements, just concentrating on the problems of ordinary people all over the globe who are struggling to survive financially, emotionally, and romantically. Jia and Zhao will introduce the March 5 screening.

Factory faces the end in fascinating mix of fact and fiction

Factory faces the end in fascinating mix of fact and fiction

ER SHI SI CHENG JI (24 CITY) (Jia Zhangke, 2008)
Saturday, March 6, introduced by the director, 8:00
Friday, March 12, 4:00
With the imminent closing of a once-secret munitions plant known as Factory 420 in Chengdu, eight workers relate their unique stories in another fascinating look at capitalism in a changing China by writer-director Jia Zhangke, who has previously investigated the transformations in his native country in such excellent works as PLATFORM, UNKNOWN PLEASURES, THE WORLD, USELESS, and STILL LIFE. While five of the tales are told by actual male workers in their own words, three are fictional stories recited by female actors, including Joan Chen as Little Flower, Lv Liping as Hao Dali, and Jia regular Zhao Tao as Su Na. Jia sees the factory, which is being torn down to make way for a luxury apartment complex called 24 City, as a symbol of contemporary China, as the past is ripped away in favor of capitalist-based technological modernization and the celebration of wealth. By intermingling fact and fiction, Jia creates a fascinating pseudo-documentary that also subtly touches upon women’s changing role in Chinese industry and society. The feature-length film will be preceded by the six-minute short, GOU DE ZHUANG KUANG (THE CONDITION OF DOGS) (Jia Zhangke, 2001); Jia will introduce the March 6 screening.

Sanming tries to fill in biggest hole in his life in Jia Zhang-ke film

Sanming tries to fill in biggest hole in his life in Jia Zhangke film

STILL LIFE (SANXIA HAOREN) (Jia Zhangke, 2006)
Monday, March 8, introduced by the director, 4:00
Sunday, March 14, 5:00
Sixth Generation Chinese film director Jia Zhangke won the Golden Lion award for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival for STILL LIFE, his beautiful, elegiac, documentary-like examination of displaced family. Jia sets his film around the ongoing, controversial Three Gorges Dam project, which has forced millions of residents from their homes. Han Sanming, a miner from Shanxi, arrives in the former town of Fengjie, looking for the daughter he hasn’t seen in sixteen years, since she was a baby. Meanwhile, a young nurse, Shen Hong, is seeking out her husband, a construction executive whom she hasn’t heard from in two years. Using nonprofessional actors, Jia (PLATFORM, THE WORLD) tells their heartbreaking stories virtually in slow motion, with many scenes driven by Han’s tired eyes, featuring little or no dialogue. He gets a job helping tear down buildings, in direct contrast to his desire to rebuild his relationship with his long-lost family. Jia’s gentle camera reveals how China, in its quest for modernization and financial power, has left behind so many of its people, the heart and soul of the land that has literally been torn out from under them. STILL LIFE is a small gem. STILL LIFE will be preceded by BLACK BREAKFAST (Jia Zhangke, 2008), Jia’s three-minute short that was part of the Art of the World UN omnibus “Stories on Human Rights,” in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights; Jia will introduce the March 8 screening.

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