Still Life

Main Story:
Understanding China: Five films

Sãnxiá H orén
(2006, directed by Jia Zhangke, starring Han Sanming, Zhao Tao, Li Zhubing, Wang Hongwei, Ma Lizhen, Zhou Lin, & Luo Mingwang)

One of the most important issues in China today is the migration of millions of people from rural areas to the cities in search of a better life or to be forced out of their familiar life by modernisation. This film tackles the problems of migration through two related stories of people on the move, in search of lost spouses and a better life. Set in a town along the Yangzi River to be flooded by the completion of the controversial Three Gorges Dam, which will be made into the largest hydraulic power facility in the world, Still Life tells stories of displacement and successfully captures through amazing camera works the anger, frustration, and helplessness felt by many ordinary people who find the rapid changes in China disorienting and left out in the process.

Given the Chinese government’s single-minded focus on rapid economic growth Still Life offers a window on the human costs of this rapid development. As most observers focus our attention on the remarkable economic progress of China today, Still Life thus provides an important supplement to the picture of economic policy and social condition one gets from reading the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times.