OMG an Engrish Post!

我最近看了一個很有意思的電影:“可可西里”。今天一位老師(Cui Shiqin,Bowdoin College) 教電影的意思。

And now for my first real English post in awhile. I am writing this post because the movie mentioned above (Ke Ke Xi Li) is particularly hard to explain in Chinese with my limited vocabulary. I, for instance, do not know the words for “Tibetan antelope” nor “poacher.” But really, I pause to comment in English to document a film (a “docu-drama” according Prof. Cui) that got me thinking.

Ever since the my very early “pre-thesis” meeting with the Political Science Dept. professors, I am have dreaming up interests in and about China. In this case, a movie about endangered Tibetan Antelope in far Eastern China got me thinking about two particular interests: the environment in China and Arts in China. This Chinese film touches on both subjects.

First, the environment. Surely, we can all thank Al Gore for An Inconvenient Truth but what about everything else? When do you get a mainstream film with violence, adventure, a plot, etc. that has an environmental thrust? Ke Ke Xi Li is fundamentally an environmental movie about saving Tibetan antelope from poachers. It’s graphic, it’s real. And yet, it isn’t really a documentary with a Morgan Freeman voiceover. No, it’s a real story with characters and plot and action. Interestingly enough, this Chinese movie was made in conjunction with Columbia Studios so it was meant for a Western audience. But then again, a not-very-uplifting ending could not have gone over very well in Hollywood (and that’s also why you’ve never heard of this film…).

Second, the arts. Prof. Cui told a particularly interesting tale about how she judged documentaries for a film festival in China. She was taken three hours by subway and illegal taxi to the middle of nowhere town to screen movies at a complex built by a Harvard graduate. Then she watched movies in absolute darkness for days until one day, the films stopped. Why, she asked? Well, the Chinese cultural police (in plain clothes — clear to the Chinese who was who but not to Prof. Cui) saw something that didn’t float their boat. On occasion, Prof. Cui was asked to “stay behind” after the building was locked to view more documentaries that may not of passed the cultural police test.

More importantly, though, this proves there is some creativity in China. OMG, creativity! But also there are some in China wishing to push the envelope a little. This movie was approved for release in China…
This film focuses on the intersection between art and environment from the Chinese point of view. More on this in the coming weeks, months, years as I explore these ideas.

Other interesting points:

  • The power of Beijing. Beijing and the people there are the leaders of the country far beyond the government. Culturally, where Beijing (and big cities) lead, the rest of the country will follow.
  • The power of Halfies. The main character/narrator/journalist in the film is half Han, half Tibetan making him accessible to the Tibetans but also high enough status to make a journalistic report helping the antelope cause tangible and real.
  • The power of Life and Death. This is the cinematic theme of the film that I usually find rather boring but it’s worth a mention because of it’s mirroring humans vs. animals in the film.