Jade Green Station
Release year: 2003
Run time: 122 mins
Film type: Documentary
In 1910, the Chinese were commissioned by the French to construct a rail connection between the Chinese Yunnan province and Vietnam. In very little time, this turned the sleepy village of Bise (Jade) into a lively stopover. Director Yu Jian quietly observes the daily bustle along the railroad tracks that are populated by traders, sellers of sweets, passengers and railroad employees. Initially, we only hear the surrounding sounds (dogs, birds, the radio), but gradually more and more people tell about their memories and ambitions. A land worker, for instance, recollects the era of collective farming, and how he made his toiling comrades laugh by singing a song. Another calls attention to the shifting opinion about marrying people off. We also hear how the railroad workers are edified by a memo from the authorities that praises good work ethic and once more states the security regulations. Meanwhile, the camera glides past dilapidated, weed-infested places near the tracks, while T.S. Eliot's poem "East Coker" is recited. The past always remains visible to the keen observer. Thus, Bise becomes a meeting place between modern China and the old Chinese Empire, where nothing seems to have changed.
Yu Jian (1954), a poet, essayist, literary critic, novelist, editor, photographer, documentary filmmaker, and university professor, was born and raised in Kunming. He is widely recognized as one of the foremost poets of his generation. His numerous publications, which span more than three decades and various literary genres, include the landmark five-volume Collected Yu Jian, the four-volume Selected Essays of Yu Jian, and more recently Who Is He: Poems 2007-2011 (2013). Yu Jian’s writings have been translated into fourteen languages, including English. Among his documentaries are Hometown (2009) and Jade Green Station (in collaboration with anthropologist Zhu Xiaoyang, 2003), both of which constitute a cinematic expression that allows Yu Jian to extend his poetic, humanistic vision to his ongoing ecological, socio-political, and cultural concerns about life in Yunnan. A regular guest at major poetry festivals, Yu Jian has held lectures and readings at leading universities and literary events worldwide. He has lived his whole life in Kunming.