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magazm.

BRUCE NAUMAN
SERGIO PREGO
JOAO ONOFRE
EDER SANTOS
DANIEL CANOGAR
WANG XIAOSHUAI
FRANCIS AL YS
BALTAZAR TORRES
VICTOR HUGO
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ENTREVISTA CON WANG XIAOSHUAI
INTERVIEW WITH
WANG XIAOSHUAI
ENTREVISTA COM WANG XIAOSHUAI
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INTERVIEW WITH WANG XIAOSHUAI
Bom 1n Shangha1 1n 1966, Wang Xk!oshuat was
twO months old when hiS parent left for GUiyang. a
poor and tsol.tted c1ty tn the mountatns of GUtzhou
prov1nce. because htS mother's factory was relocated
to form a "Third Ltne of Defence" agatnst the Sovtet
Unton.This tS v,1guely the setting for Wang Xtaoshuat's
Sh.mghl' Dre,mJS. wmner of the Spectal jury Pnze at
Cannes 2005 In 1979. his famtly moved to Wuhan.
where Wang expenenced for the first ttme the lures
of matenalism tn a metropolis. He moved to Betjlng
tn 1981 and enrolled tn the Department of Dtrectmg.
Betjlng Ftlm Academy.tn 1985. H1s early films were un-
derground projects. whtch landed htm bnefly on the
blackhst of the Ftlm Bureau. At the 200 I Berhn Inter-
national F1lm Festtval. h1s Bepng &cycle (2000) fetched
h1m the Stiver Bear Award.
Shanghai Dreams tnaugurated the seventh Os-
tan's-Ctnefan Ftlm Festtvaltn New Delht, the only fes-
ttval tn the world With a spec1ahzed focus on Astan
ctnema. Dunng the festtval, Dardo magazme talks to
Wang Xiaoshuat about the role of a filmmaker tn
boomtng Ch1na and the broad themes that thread
h1s films.
Qu1te a number of your fi lms are about the hves
of young people 1n China Is that penod a particular-
ly memorable one 1n your life?
Subconsciously. rt IS easter for me now to wnte
about that penod of ltfe. I'm 39 -just past the stage
of betng young. Suddenly. I'm tn a pos1tton to make
mov1es. Naturally. I'm more confident of expresstng
my feel1ngs accurately through the hves of young
people. There tS a sense of tnnocence that is unmts-
takab!e tn that penod of hfe. But maybe m a year or
two, my themes will cl'k1nge.
I have yet to make a film that can be called auto-
btographtcal Shanghai Dreams tS vaguely so. When I
was young. I had no sense of where I was from as
my famtly moved around qUite a brt In fact I have a
scnpt that shares the same b<Kkground .ts Shanghai
Drmms. There are more autobt0graph1cal elements
tn It In a way, the emotions and awkwardness of be-
tog young tn Shanghai Dreams are not untque to my
expenences. Everyone feels the same v:ay at some
potnt of h1s or her ltfe.
At the same time, a number of your fi ms are set
agatnst Chtna tn the mtdst of economte success and
raptd modemJZatJon. What IS the role of a filmmak-
er or an 1r 'tst 1n such ttmes?
fritters (2003) is set agatnst the wave of tllegal
mtgrants fleetng Ch1na at the end of the 1980s After
years of betng shut from the world, the wave was
expected as Ch1na hberahzed. atthough I found rt.
strange. Those who fled had equated happtness wrt.h
thetr 11lustons. I wasn't tempted because I felt rt was
unrealistic and unrehable. Today. the mtgratory wave
has faded away. In recent years. those who left have
been retum1ng to Ch1na.Th1s tS a sgn that Chtna has
changed. Naturally. the story of D tcers takes place a
few years after the fad. when the protagontst -an Il-
legal m1grant to the USA- deCides to return. only to
find h1mself an alien 1n Chtna.
At that tJme. I could sense the dtsappotntment tn
my fnends who had returned after they fled Chtna.
because what they had left behtnd were lost fofe\/er.
Shangha1 Dreams is set in the early part of the
1980s. after the upheavals of the Cultural Revolu-
tion. and Just before the fl oodgates to caprtahsm was
completely opened <lunng the deltcate tansttton
between the old and the nev. News from the out-
Side world was starttng to filter nto Chtna.
Guangzhou became an 1mportant port of entl') due
to her proxtmtty IMth HK Pop mustc and fashton
trends ""ere becomtng eVIdent on the streets. A fe-.,
years later. capttaltsm INOuld gnp the entire country.
except the tsolated regtons 1n the .vest.
Therefore. rt IS easy for the father of the protag-
ontst to lm.l&tne that ltfe tn Shanghat INOuld be much
better th.1n 1n Gu1y.mg That penod of ttme Slgrk!led
the awakcntng of tndMduahty 1n Chtna
bu
king money. there IS
Todly. as everyone IS sy ma .
I h
rrtage may be un-
us danger that our cultura e
seno . eoal
dermlned. The other problem IS education. esp -
ny people are un-
ly rn the rural areas. where so ma
educated.
.
1
. d Flms are not tools
A filmmaker's ab1lrty IS 1mrte
1
of social change, but they may bnng about attitUdinal
Shifts. China's film culture IS also surrendenng to Hol-
lywood. the beacon of capitalism. and becoming a
tool of profits. However; Cinema is a cultural artifact
that we cannot afford to lose.
While consumer products try to alrgn themselves
With culture as part of the1r market1ng strategres, no-
body IS wrlltng to talk about "genu1ne" culture, which
1nclude c1nema Therefore. we must pers1st 1n making
1ndependent films. so that at least a very small bit of
our film culture is reta1ned.
People have suggested that I should bankroll the
success of 5hanghaJ OreiJms and make commenc1al
films. It's true that I can 1ndeed take money out of the
vrevvers' pockets on a short -term bas1s. However, rf I
contrnue to work 1n Independent onema I'm actual-
ly putt1ng money back 1n the vrewers' pockets on the
long-term, because I'm do1ng my bit to educate our
aud1ences 1n the culture of c1nema. I have always ex-
pressed gratitude to v1ewers who have sat through
my films whrch are not very grat1fying to the sens-
es because they have done somethmg for the cul-
ture of Ch1nese Cinema by watch1ng such films.
What do you feel about Ch1na today?
Rap1d growth has gone alongsrde an eros1on of
morals and values. Everyone wants to be rich us
1
ng
whatever means poss1ble. It's l1ke a plague. espec
1
alty
when It !.eems that only the unscrupulous are suc-
way they make money reveals an Inherent
lnsecunty, as though the future IS bleak and the nght
to lndMdual possesSion may suddenly be revoked.
We need a strong-h.lnded approach from the
government to curb this trend At the same t
1me.we
need to stress the Importance of preserving our cul-
tural hent.age through educatron H .
oweve1, as a film-
maker.
1
cannot afford to wart I have to pers1st With
my ltmrted capacity.
In the first place, culture and economy should
S
together. In recent years, Ch1nese crnema
progres
has been well rece1ved overseas. But rt rs not as
though we didn't have anyth1ng good to show to the
world 1n the past. Because of the weakness of our
economy. it was harder for fore1gners to see. for ex-
ample. the beauty of BeiJing opera.
Do you think your films work as "documentanes"
of Ch1na undergo1ng rap1d change?
1 don't th1nk rt works 1n such a literal manner. Bel-
png &cycle (2000) 1s a typical example. The censors
didn't want to pass it based on the ratJonale that I
shot too many hutongs (old alleyways) and not
enough of Beijing's skyscrapers. This 1s nd1culous. Chi-
na is progressing by pull1ng down everyth1ng. ""h1ch
1s still cheaper than preservat1on of. let's say. our lv-
tongs. They don't realrze that once our heritage 1s
tom down, the change 1s 1rrevers1ble.
In the future, they will have to find 1mages of h.J-
tongs from photographs and films. like Be ng &c;de
In th1s sense, my films take on a documentary func-
t 1on. S1m1larly. the h1storrcal background to Shanghai
Dreams IS hardly documented 1n Ch1na.
Go1ng away IS a recumng theme 1n your films, par-
tJcularly 1n Diflet-s and Shanghai Dre.m'IS. Why 1s rt so?
Go1ng away fulfils our escapist fantas1es that the
world outs1de 1s bette.: Th1s sense of go1ng ava} has
perhaps come fium my expenence of dnfting fium
place to place. Even 1n the same area. my fam11\ \'\as
always relocat1ng. As a ch1ld. every ne\'\ env1ronment
meant a long and pa1nful process of mak1ng fnends.
Of course, rt became eas1er ,1s I gre\\ olde-
There is always the p1-esence of a father figur-e 1n
your films. Most of the t1me. your protagon1sts end
up fight1ng them. Is th1s your personal e>-pe-
nence Ol' does rt work .1s .1 metaphor/
It is very common for to tum 1-ebell1ous
against the11 f,1thers 01 teachers when they reach 13.
much ke the way a shoot pushes through the mud.
In S/1dnghJJ Dre:Jms there arc some references to
po ucs but there are other ang es thdt VIewers can
t.lke when watch ng the fi m I d1dn't plan for the
metaphor but I could a'so see the symbolism that
came naturally With the scnpt In fact. the presence
of the f.1ther figure IS common to most films made
by f:fth or s1xth generaton Ch1nese d1rectors. s1mply
becc1use our scnpts are often about young people.
It I were a cnt1c, my approach would necessanly
h,rve to be different from the filmmaker: The cntic
bnngs h1s or her background 1nto the analysis of films
and can "read" a film us1ng anyth1ng fium symbolism,
human1sm or aesthetics.
Why are you attracted to realism?
First of all, let's not forget that the filmmaking In-
dustry in Ch1na IS comparatively backward. With a
budget of about 700.000 yuan, making a film about
one's dreams IS already 1mposstble, let alone films of
fantasy or hypeJTeahsm. For the stxth generation d1-
.!IMIU II Cllllh'W 1111 ,11 1"11
rectors. we somet1mes don't even have t.Pe money
to bu ld ,1 room 1n the stud1o. Therefore. our ma1n
concern 1s always to complete the film, wh1ch s why
our films are naturally steeped 1n reahsm. Our "at-
traction" to reahsm IS a result of the economiC con-
straints put on us. Well, even tf I want to make my
char-acters fly 1n my film, I can't Only when you have
the budget, like Zhang Yimou or Ang Lee rn the1r re-
cent films. can you cl'ange your style.
Look at the from around the
world: most of thetr early films conta1n elements of
realism. Often, 1t IS the young filmmaker who has an
attttude and a strong sense of purpose. He or she IS
struggling aga1nst the established, wh1ch naturally
means that the young filmmaker has limted budget
What do you th1nk are the reasons of your suc-
cess?
I really don't know. in Ch1na. there is a JOke about
a group of people coming together to make a film.
The pmducer asks them for the1r strengths One of
d
I
them says he IS a painter: so the producer gets him
Th
ther says he likes
to be the artistiC dwector e o
L nd so he becomes the onematogra-
photograp Y. a
pher Then, someone says he doesn't know anything.
And the person becomes the drector!
Every du-ector IS very different The background
th.1t he or she bnngs Into a film IS perhaps hiS or her
most precrous component. For example, my realism
1
s def
1
n
1
tely d
1
fferent fr-om Hou Hs1ao Hs1en's one,
because his experiences are Irreplaceable.
Of the films you have made, wh1ch IS your
favounte?
I don't th1nk I have made my best yet. All these
years. I have worked under very difficult condit1ons,
'lvhch limited my scope of express1on. There have
been many regrets along the way. So I feel I can still
make a better film. However: for emotional reasons,
I will not forget my first film, when I had a budget of
only I 00.000 yuan -in 1992, that was about
US$1 0.000- and everyone scraped and struggled to
make rt a realrty
From the days when your films were banned to
the recent award at Cannes, your fortunes have
crangcd dramatically Over the years, how has your
psyche changed 1n relatron to your life as a filmmaker?
I took on a nothng-to-lose attitude when I start-
ed to make films. If everything fell apart, I was quite
sure that my basic rights as a Chinese citizen would
still be protected. Of course, I was lucky that the so-
oety was already open
1
ng up.
Therefore, one more film made meant a small
step forward I was qurte sure rt was the nght direc-
tlon to take. Pan was only assoCiated wrth doubts
that my gauge of the future would be
wrong. be-
cause on a micro level, whether a film was ba d
merely r nne
cpresented rts lndrvrdual fate.
I have made films for 12 years I
penod f now. t IS not a long
o time But rt rs not short erther. For the Ch'
nese every 12 -
years represents a cycle and
a renew-
al. My award at Cannes IS t1mely and the Ch1nese
media has naturally gven it much coverage. More
1
mportantly. 1t means that the Chmese market is still
w
1
11
1
ng to embr-ace Independent c1nema
You have used names of the protagonists as the
anginal Ch1nese t1tles of Shanghai Dreams and
[hfters. The English translation seems too literal
What do you think?
1 agree. The translation comes from my drstribu-
tor who doesn't understand Ch1nese. At the same
time, my command of the language is not enough to
suggest an English translation. Of course, it is impos-
sible to have a direct translation from the Chinese t
1
-
tles.There is also a slight sense of contemptuousness
to Chinese cinema because 1t is m1nority culture
1
n
the west. Therefore, the dlstrrbutor prefers titles that
are even more literal than Hollywood flrcks. Person-
ally. Shanghai Dreams sounds qurte stup1d to me.
Ch1nese films have struggled to penetrate the ln-
dan market, vrce versa. Do you th1nk the reasons are
cultural?
The film Industry in India rs very 1nterest1ng. From
my limrted knowledge, I think Bollyvvood produces
800 films a year. The themes in the films are very sim-
ilar: There is love and revenge, set agarnst the dispar-
ity of the rich and the poor. Amidst the narrative, a
dance sequence may suddenly break out. And much
to our envy. Indians turn out full force to support
their films.
On the other hand. Chinese films have never
shared a unlfytng characterrstrc. What 1s representa-
tive of Chinese Cinema? Some people may say kung-
fi.J films. But martal art flcks are actually populanzed
by HK directors.
I'm still tryng to leam more about lndtan Clnema.J

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