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'Distance' is gritty portrayal of fast-changing China

'Distance' is gritty portrayal of fast-changing China

Recent mainland Chinese films have mostly fallen into two broad categories _ the epic and the urban comedy.
However, neither genre adequately reflects the larger reality facing the bulk of China's 1.3 billion population.
That's why director Wei Tie's "Distance," currently screening in competition at the Pusan International Film Festival in South Korea, is such an important contribution to the canon of Chinese film.
Films such as Zhang Yimou's "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers" showcase stylish kung fu moves set against gorgeous sets inspired by ancient China. Feng Xiaogang _ a specialist in urban comedies _ likes to portray increasingly wealthy city dwellers who drive fancy cars and use sophisticated cell phones.
But Wei tells the story of rural youngster Zhu Ming, who goes to the city in search of work but fails because of his meager education. Meanwhile, Zhu Ming's presence at his cousin Zhu Kun's house in the city drives a wedge between Zhu Kun and his girlfriend Jing Jing.
It's a tale shared by many Chinese villagers who leave their homes in search of a better life in the city, but who end up in a bitter economic struggle in a harshly competitive environment.
Wei doesn't inject too much drama into the movie. He lets the story speak for itself, and the tale he tells is a bleak one.
Wei portrays a China that's morally bankrupt, money-worshipping and at risk of losing its family values.
Zhu Ming runs into scam after scam _ employment agents who ask him for cash up front, then don't find him a job; a mobster-like employer who orders thugs to coerce him into working for him even though he doesn't want the job; a sales fraud involving a supposed nutritional supplement that turns out to be mere milk powder.
Zhu Kun, Zhu Ming's only support, sticks by his cousin while his petulant girlfriend gets increasingly fed up with Zhu Ming and forces Zhu Kun to choose between the two of them.
Zhu Kun's love for his cousin is about the only reason for optimism in director Wei's grim 93-minute film. It's the only solace for Zhu Ming in a city of swindlers and thugs, and yet that treasured relationship is also being threatened by the selfish girlfriend.
That's the reality that director Wei wants audiences to take in, not the gleaming skyscrapers and extravagant houses in Beijing and Shanghai.
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On the Net:
Pusan International Film Festival official Web site:
http://www.piff.org


Updated : 2021-10-20 06:21 GMT+08:00