Give us one day; we will give you the world.
Director: Jia Zhangke
Distributor: Zeitgeist Films ; Celluloid Films
Part of: Six Generation Films
In the cinematic productions of China’s Sixth Generation filmmakers, female characters are frequently portrayed as those facing and disproportionately affected by the many challenges arising from China’s urbanisation and rapid economic growth.
In The World (2004), director Jia Zhangke explores the challenging and unfair working conditions of a group of young migrant workers at an international theme park in Beijing, which offers the opportunity to ‘travel around the world without leaving Beijing’.
The main character, Zhao Xiaotao, is a female rural worker from Shanxi. She works as a dancer and entertainer in the park. Longing for freedom and financial independence, she moved to Beijing to ensure a more prosperous future. Unfortunately, the impossibility to escape the park’s confines turns her into a prisoner further detached from the same freedom she came to Beijing in search of.
Zhao Xiaotao is part of a disadvantaged and marginalised class and subjected to various forms of gender exploitation: her body is sexualised and commodified. This socially engaged portrait of women’s lives reveals a much more complex - and often unpleasant – reality behind the modernisation of a country, especially for a woman.
Jia Zhangke’s portrayal of women in The World (2004) offers an enlightening insight into the social indifference and despair experienced by those left churning in the wake of China’s economic boom. Each attempt at escape or rebirth is met with the harrowing realisation of fate’s unwillingness to change. Jia seemingly mocks modern China for trying to become Western with such haste. With the film’s confusing ending - The World, in a sense, is about a story that never really begins.
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