Forty Years of “Life Show”, We Grew up like this!
Focusing on realistic subjects, recording changeable times and eulogizing struggling figures have always been the fine tradition and creative orientation that Chinese filmmakers are proud of. This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up. On the topic of “40 Years of Films”, the upcoming 21st Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) will showcase a group of outstanding domestic films that record social changes and focus on hot issues and people’s lives, allowing audiences to relive the era’s “Life Show” with Chinese characteristics.
Since China’s reform and opening up, social changes have taken place with each passing day. Struggle has been the same subject of many films. The film BEYOND THE HORIZONS released in 1992 records the rural area life in the late 1970s in the north of China. The village party secretary cannot bear to see the villagers leave their homes for making a living and decides to carry out the reform of “fixing of farm output quotas for each household” for the benefit of all, showing communists’ fearlessness and courage to explore.
While American Dreams in China released in 2013 opens with vigorous university campus in the 1980s. After graduation, the three classmates embark on different career. They found English language school, witnessing the rise and popularity of China’s “fever of studying abroad”, and their friendship also faces tough tests.
Efforts to combat corruption and build a clean government are also one of the creation subjects attracting much attention in recent years. The film Final Decision adapted from Zhang Ping’s novel was released in 2000 and became one of the thematic blockbusters of the year. For the first time, the film tells that an anti-corruption official faces the corruption of his relatives and friends. The main character Li Gaocheng makes the right choice. What supports him is his original intention: benefit and protect the people.
China’s reform and opening up have changed people’s life concepts and mental outlooks. These changes have been accompanied by shocks and pains. Under the Bridge released in 1984 tells the story of the educated youth rebuilding their lives after returning to the city, reflecting their confidence in life. In Love released in 1989 tells several young people’s choice between stable work in big cities and hard start-up efforts in Hainan. Shanghai Fever released in 1994 and familiar to Shanghai’s audiences is a reflection of the inner entanglements of general public in the emerging stock market. Films such as Life Show, Everybody’s Fine, and The End Of Year also grasp the pulse of the times from different perspectives, focusing on ordinary people’s family, work and affection and striking a chord with audiences.
Spreading contemporary Chinese values, embodying the spirit of Chinese culture, reflecting Chinese people’s aesthetic pursuit, and creating outstanding works with ideological, artistic and ornamental characters, are the successful experiences accumulated by Chinese filmmakers in the 40 years of reform and opening up, and are also the requirements of the new era for artists. We are looking forward to seeing more “life shows” with realistic characters and contexts showing integrity and heroism on the big screen.
Under the bridge (1984)
Director: Bai Chen
Screenwriter: Bai Chen / Ling Qiwei / Zhu Dian / Zheng Binghui / Le Yun
Starring: Gong Xue / Zhang Tielin / Wang Pin
By the side of picturesque Suzhou River, bicycle repairman Gao Zhihua falls in love with little tailor Qin Nan. Gao’s mother is also satisfied with Qin’s gentleness and kindness and supports her son and Qin. However, Gao and his mother never think that Qin even had a son at a young age and takes him with her. For a time, pieces of gossip are going around. At the moment, the attitude of Gao’s mother changes dramatically...
In Love (1989)
Director: Lu Xiaoya
Screenwriter: Lu Xiaoya
Starring: Li Kechun / Lv Xiaohe
After graduating from university, Wen Jiefei comes to the special economic zone Hainan with great hopes to start a new life. By chance, she meets a constructor Fan Jiyuan born in a peasant family. Fan pursues her relentlessly and she marries him. After their marriage, the cultural differences between them cause Wen’s psychological imbalance. The gap of thoughts and feelings is difficult to make up for with rich material life. She feels lost and confused as never before.
Year Of Fate (1990)
Director: Xie Fei
Screenwriter: Liu Heng
Starring: Cai Hongxiang / Cheng Lin / Jiang Wen / Li Geng / Li Nan
The unemployed youth Li Huiquan hurts someone for his buddies and is sentenced to jail. His mother has died when he gets out of prison, leaving him an empty home. His warm-hearted neighbor Aunt Luo and police Xiao Li help Li Huiquan get an individual business license. He begins to stand on his own feet.
Li met Zhao Yaqiu, a cabaret singer, and becomes her escort. However, when he decides to start a new life, he is caught in an unexpected dilemma.
Beyond the horizons (1992)
Director: Yu Benzheng
Screenwriter: Lu Tianming
Starring: Zhang Tieyuan / Gao Qiang / Xiao Rongsheng / Fang Wenying
In the late 1970s, the peasants of Yaogou Brigade are living in poverty. The men in the village leave their homes to make a living. The women, children and the elderly can only stay at their poor homes. Qu Houcheng, the former party secretary of the village, cannot bear to see the villagers leave their homes. He and the party members secretly reclaim several acres of uncultivated land and prepared to use the harvested grain to help the villagers. However, the district party secretary Qu Manman confiscates these grains on the charge of “black grain”. The new village party secretary Qin Jianjiu pleads desperately for clearing Qu Houcheng’s name but failed. In the face of the continuous outflow of villagers, Qin Jianjiu decides to take the measure of “fixing of farm output quotas for each household”.
Shanghai Fever (1994)
Director: Li Guoli
Screenwriter: Jia Hongyuan / Wu Jingwen
Starring: Pan Hong / Sean Andy / Wang Rugang / Wang Huaying / Crystal Kwok
Final Decision (2000)
Director: Yu Benzheng
Screenwriter: Song Jigao / Zhang Ping / He Zizhuang
Starring: Wang Qingxiang / Liao Jingsheng / Zuo Ling / Wang Zhenrong / Lei Ming
Mayor Li Gaocheng comes back after studying in Party School of the Central Committee and faces complicated situations and sharp conflicts. Zhongyang Textile Factory, where Li worked as the director six years ago, is now on the verge of bankruptcy and thousands of textile workers are preparing to petition the municipal government. Through in-depth investigations and visits, he learns that there is serious corruption within the current leadership of Zhongyang Group and his wife and little brother are also involved. Between the interests of the party and the country and his family affection, he makes the final decision after hard thinking for a long time.
Big Shot's Funeral (2001)
Director: Feng Xiaogang
Screenwriter: Shi Kang / Feng Xiaogang / Li Xiaoming
Starring: Ge You / Rosamund Kwan / Ying Da / Paul Mazursky / Donald Sutherland
The world renowned director Taylor is very ill when he is filming in China. Seeing that the big shot is dying, the people around him decide to arrange a decent funeral for him. Then Youyou, a laid-off photographer from the film studio, and Louis Wang, a pedantic businessman, take on the job. For a time, the big shot’s funeral becomes the focus of the media, and no one is willing to miss a great business opportunity. Just as preparations for the funeral are in full swing, something incredible happens...
Life Show (2002)
Director: Huo Jianqi
Screenwriter: Si Wu
Starring: Tao Hong / Tao Zeru / Pan Yueming
The beautiful single woman Lai Shuangyang runs “Jiujiu Restaurant” in Jiqing Street and the specialty Touwei Duck Neck attracts many diners to linger over. Some people not only love the duck necks, they are also attracted by Lai’s charm. Lai’s life seems wonderful, but she has her own troubles: Mother died in her early years and Father remarried; she became the first self-employed person in Jiqing Street to bring up her little brother and sister; her marriage failed and is single; her little brother is an addict and entered the addiction treatment center; and her big brother and his wife are coveting the old house of their family. All these troubles make her exhausted and struggling all the time.
The World (2004)
Director: Jia Zhangke
Screenwriter: Jia Zhangke
Starring: Zhao Tao / Cheng Taishen / Huang Yiqun / Wang Hongwei / Liang Jingdong
As a dancer of Beijing World Park Folk Village, Zhao Xiaotao is eager to fly with her boyfriend Cheng Taisheng to see the outside world. The visit of her ex-boyfriend reminds Zhao of her unforgettable first encounter with Cheng and their boring days at present. She understands that her old dreams have already been broken and the sudden departure of the Russian girl Anna she just gets acquainted with but feels like an old friend makes her perplexed.
The End Of Year (2008)
Director: Wang Jing
Screenwriter: Xie Xiaodong / Wu Nan
Starring: Chen Gang / Wang Chang’e / Zhang Tong / Feng Dinghong / Zeng Yunzhen
As the Spring Festival approaches, the contractor Zhang Guodong, who has been struggling in Beijing for many years, is preparing to halt one year of hard work and take his girlfriend home for the New Year. A small accident makes him meet Teacher Bai, the vice principal of a senior high school, who is worrying that no one can decorate his new home. Zhang takes on the decoration of Bai’s home. On the other hand, Li Jialiang, a chief physician of internal medicine, is preparing to bring his family back to their hometown in Hunan. Not only is it difficult to buy tickets, but his wife, who is determined to get her son admitted to key high schools, is firmly opposed to returning hometown for fear of delaying their son’s study. Zhang makes a mistake in the decoration. Bai gets sick from his anxiety to entertain his children in the new home and is sent to the hospital where Li works. A drama about going home to visit relatives begins to unfold.
American Dreams in China (2013)
Director: Peter Chan
Screenwriter: Zhou Zhiyong / Zhang Ji / Lin Aihua
Starring: Huang Xiaoming / Deng Chao / Tong Dawei / Du Juan
In the 1980s, three young people with enthusiasm and dreams meet on the campus of Yenching university. Meng Xiaojun, born in an intellectual family, is eager to go to the United States to realize his ideals. Wang yang, romantic and free, fully enjoys the vigorous youth atmosphere in the early days of reform and opening up. Cheng Dongqing, a rural youth, who have twice failed in the college entrance examination, studies hard. Following their success, their friendship is facing tough tests.
Everybody’s Fine (2016)
Director: Zhang Meng
Screenwriter: Liu Ya / Song Xiao
Starring: Zhang Guoli / Yao Chen / Shawn Dou / Ye Yiyun/ Chen He
Guan Qing is all-powerful in the workplace, but she has insoluble marital problems. Guan Chu is in a foreign country and has a beautiful dream of ballet, but the reality is cruel and she can only make a living as a waitress in a restaurant. Guan Quan has devoted all efforts to start a business, but fails to get the desired result. Guan Hao, a freelance photographer, is also lost in his life. Although the Guans’ four siblings have the same blood, they live in different places and gather rarely. As their father, Guan Zhiguo, who is not good at words, decides to take the initiative and begins his journey of visiting his four children.