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Mаry Mamyan

"Tendency to Watch Films Alone is Dangerous": Filmmaker Jia Zhangke in Yerevan

Film director and screenwriter Jia Zhangke, in Yerevan for the 11th Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival, believes that the tendency to watch films alone is dangerous.

He finds that in this period of technological development, people begin to live in two worlds: the real and the imaginary. At the same time, these technologies made people solitary: an example of this is that people have begun watching films alone — on their phones, with their computers — in that case when film aims to unite people. 

Considered one of the key figures of the "Sixth Generation" movement of Chinese cinema, Jia depicts the modern life of China in his films. Through his work, the world sees an image of China that is not fabricated. 

Between 1995 and 2013, Jia made 16 films. Of these, Still Life (2006) received the Golden Lion at the 2006 Venice International Film Festival, while 24 City (2008) was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. The retrospective of his films as part of GAIFF kicked off with the July 16 screening of Still Life.

The director says that he was born and raised in a poor city in China, which gave him the opportunity to see the lives of ordinary, poor villagers, understand their experiences and feelings. All this was bound to have an impact on him. And earliest films represent his city's reality. His earlier films were based on the Chinese villager's life in its surroundings, whereas later films show how and why that villager leaves his home and moves to the big city.

On one hand, it's important to the film director to show humankind, its feelings and emotions; on the other hand, he asks himself why this world is so focused on people. He believes that the world can be viewed also from the perspective of animals. Furthermore, he doesn't know whether there are aliens or not, but he'd like to believe that there are. It would help people to understand that we are not the center of the universe. 

During his student years, Jia was taken with literature. But no matter how much he loved literature, he understood that he cannot reach the masses this way. The director's other love was painting, but that too was limiting for him. When he saw the films of "Fifth Generation" Chinese filmmakers, he understood that he had to become a film director — that's the only way he can express his ideas. Jia confesses that leaving a big impression on him were his film teachers, a majority of whom had come to teach from the Soviet Union.

When in his last year at the film academy, Jia left Beijing for his hometown, he saw how many changes occurred there. Relations among all his friends and acquaintances were tangled, and money was to blame. The director decided to make the effect of economic changes in China the next topic in his films. His films always address the developments and changes taking place in China in this period. 

Screened as part of this year's GAIFF are Jia Zhangke's 24 City, I Wish I Knew, In Public, Pickpocket, Platform, Still Life, A Touch of Sin, and The WorldAlong with South Korean film director Kim Ki-duk, he too was awarded the Parajanov's Thaler, a Lifetime Achievement Award, for contributions made to global cinema.

Photo creditGAIFF official website

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