Release year: 2005
Run time: 160 mins
Film type: Documentary
This documentary shows how different young people try to realize their dreams or become famous through the film industry. One of the main characters of this documentary is named Wang, a young man from the countryside, aged 28. He comes to Beijing out of a love for the cinema; however, all he can do every day is line up outside the gate of a film studio in the hope of landing a job as an extra, getting 30 yuan for one day! During his stay in Beijing he writes a film script based on his own experience in the city as an extra. He thinks his play presents the darkness and desperation of survival in China. Then he wants to find an investor or a director who can produce his play as an “underground film”, because in his opinion many Chinese directors are successful on the international stage this way. During his search he meets some directors and producers (including some underground film people), some famous, some not; some businessmen; people from the film censorship authority; and some students from the cinema institute. In fact, in Beijing his life is very hard, no money, no secure place to sleep. In the summer he has to sleep on the roof of a school dormitory. Finally, Wang fails to realize his dream: never will he see his film made.
Another character is also a young man from the countryside. His name is Xiao Wu, 19 years old. His love of cinema is shown in his chosen occupation of selling pirated DVDs, some of which are quite famous foreign films, for example award winners from the Berlin, Venice, and Cannes Film Festivals. Every day he puts all his DVDs into a bag and goes out on his bike to find his frequent customers, young people or students who are film buffs or involved with filmmaking.
Apart from these two, this documentary also features young girls who dream of becoming movie stars. We learn of their love of film and their ideas about life as they audition for a role.
Throughout this process not only am I the director of this documentary but also a person who is puzzled about why we make films. Of course, I also appear in this documentary, and never hide my bewilderment, or the conflicts between my characters and me. For example, Wang accuses me of using his miserable story to enhance my own reputation.
Wu was born in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province in 1956. After graduating from secondary school in 1974, Wu was sent to the countryside, where he worked as a farmer for four years. Between 1978 and 1982, he studied Chinese literature at Yunnan University. After university, Wu worked for three years as a teacher at a junior high school, and after, for four years in television as a journalist. Wu left television and moved to Beijing in 1988 to be an independent documentary filmmaker, freelance writer, and creator and producer of dance/theatre. Wu has completed ten documentaries, including Bumming in Beijing (1990), 1966, My Time in the Red Guards (1993), Jiang Hu: Life on the Road (1999), Fuck Cinema (2005), Treating (2010), Bare Your Stuff (2010), Because of Hunger: Diary I by Wu (2013), Investigating My Father (2016). These have screened at many film festivals world-wide. He has also published four books of no-fiction.
In 1994, Wu co-founded the independent dance group Living Dance Studio with Wen Hui in Beijing, and created/performed a series of dance performances. These included works like Report on Giving Birth (1999), Report on the Body (2003), Report on 37.8 º (2005), Memory (2008), Memory II: Hunger (2010), which have toured festivals all over the world. In 2005, Wu co-founded the independent art space Caochangdi Workstation in Beijing. Since then, Wu has established a series of documentary and performance programmes, in particular the Village Documentary Project (established in 2005) and Folk Memory Project (established in 2010).