长风镇 (Chang Feng Zhen)
China, 2019, 125’, Mandarin
Directed by: Wang Jing
Script: Wang Jing
Photography (color): Wang Zixuan
Editing: Wang Jing
Art Direction: Wang Dou
Costumes: Liu Yuan
Music: Yuan Sihan
Sound: Li Danfeng
Production Companies: Wormwood Films, Anzhu Films
Producer: Zhang Shiyi, Ding Xuetao, Tay Bee Pin
Cast: Song Daiwei (Scabby), Liu Xinrong (Four Eyes), Ban Majia (Redhead), Luo Wenqing (Cai Xia), Chen Gang (Xi Shan), Wei Xidi (Doctor Liu)
Date of First Release in Territory: TBA
Premiere status: Italian Premiere
Nostalgia is the main theme of the second feature film written, directed and edited by Wang Jing, a young independent director who made her name a few years ago with her first film, Crossroad. Through glimpses of everyday life in Changfeng Town, an imaginary town in southern China – ostensibly anonymous but full of a mystical sense of life – the film evokes the mood of a nation that in a recent although not historically identifiable past, faced a troubling but hopeful future where anything seemed possible. Divided into five chapters, the film is an ode to everyday life, which through magical realism transforms seemingly anonymous existences into extraordinary ones. Although the story involves virtually everyone in Changfeng Town as a collective – like in most small communities, everyone knows each other and people spend most of their time meddling in other’s affairs – the narrative focuses on a few adults and a group of children with intertwined lives.
The narrator is Scabby (thus nicknamed because of a mild form of alopecia) who, along with his best friend Four Eyes (his nickname comes from the fact that he wears glasses), displays that classic adolescent mix of innocence and cruelty; he has fun at the expense of the weakest elements of the community, such as the old mute man who goes to the station every day with a parrot on his shoulder to meet someone who never arrives.
Scabby and Four Eyes’ friend, Redhead – a few years older than them – is a loudmouth who is trying to win the heart of the intrepid Cai Xia – Four Eyes’ older sister and daughter of the town’s cinema manager – who spends all her time daydreaming in the ticket booth or watching movies, all the while chewing sunflower seeds. The movie theatre is reminiscent of the one seen in Cinema Paradiso: it is the heart of the community that experiences the world through films of all genres and nationalities that are miraculously screened there, a metaphor perhaps of the director’s relationship with the art of cinema.
Redhead’s mother is the lover of an outsider who suddenly turns up in Changfeng Town with his wife and child and opens the first and only dental practice; when fate turns against him, he reinvents himself as an ice cream vendor. Then there’s the manager of the local bar, one that looks as if it was created on the set of a Western, where you drink, play billiards and cards, and gossip; his son wants to become a writer. Not to mention the town’s mechanic, popular with everyone but suffering from incurable loneliness. And in Changfeng Town strange things happen: plants talk, mysterious objects disappear and then re-emerge from nowhere, a mute girl disrupts the town’s serenity before disappearing, the mysterious death of a dog, an invasion of mice, a purifying flood: the lines between animals and humans, between reality and fantasy, between life and death becomes blurred.
The tie that binds the various narratives is the extraordinary soundtrack that, through a mix of music and rhythms from around the world, conveys the frenzy lurking behind the appearance of a sleepy place and gives legitimacy to the idea that it conceals a magical dimension where anything can happen. It’s hard to leave Changfeng Town without feeling nostalgia: as Scabby says when leaves to pursue his studies in the city, happiness and sadness accompany those who run towards the unknown.
Wang Jing (1981, Shanxi), a graduate of the Beijing Film Academy, she made her debut with the film Crossroad, which won the China Independent Film Festival Grand Jury prize and the Golden Words Award of the Beijing Film Academy. In 2010 she directed one of the segments of the film Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner which participated in numerous international festivals. She was Jia Zhangke’s assistant director in the film Mountains May Depart (2015). Changfeng Town has been awarded by the China Film Foundation – Wu Tianming Film Fund for Young Talents and the FIRST International Film Festival in Xining.
2007 – Crossroad
2010 – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (omnibus)
2019 – Changfeng Town