Where Has Time Gone portmanteau film

Source: China Daily (8/31/17)
Movie coproduced by BRICS countries to be showcased at Xiamen BRICS Summit
By Xu Fan

With the ninth BRICS Summit to open in Xiamen, Fujian province, Where Has Time Gone?, the first movie coproduced by five BRICS countries, will be showcased at the summit, giving an insight of cinematic cultures and customs.

Jia Zhangke, a famous art house director, known for his fancy of Shanxi province-set stories, led the project as the movie’s chief producer.

The movie, which will have selected screenings next month, will gradually be released across the country later this year.

The inspiration to create Where Has The Time Gone? came from a seminar, in which Zhang Hongsen, the deputy head of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, said cinema is the art of time and space. A song with the same title has also become a hit since it was sung at the 2014 Spring Festival gala.

Jia recruited a team with a majority of its members both speaking English and Chinese.

“The world has undergone rapid social and economic change, and most people now lead incredibly fast paced lives,” he said.

“Time flies, and it is the theme of time that resonates with the five filmmakers from different countries.”

After he sent invitations to Alexey Fedorchenko of Russia, Madhur Bhandarkar of India, Walter Moreira Salles Jr. of Brazil and Jahmil X.T. Qubeka of South Africa, they all joined the project to co-direct the movie.

It marks the first time in history that five BRICS countries team up on co-producing a movie.

For Jia, the project is a fresh try, and he said the biggest challenges were language, to unify the filming format and differences in time zones.

“At one point, we translated the dialogue of the Brazilian and Russian stories from English, but linguists told us that handling things that way resulted in the original flavor being lost, so we retranslated both versions from Portuguese and Russian,” he said.

The 110-minute movie consists of five stories respectively centering on one BRICS country. All five stories end in an old saying or a famous line about time to connect the following one.

The Brazilian story, titled When the Earth Trembles, looks into the lives of survivors after a massive mudflow caused by a mine dam bursting struck Minas Gerais state on Nov 5, 2015.

In the Russian section of the film, titled Breathing, a man suspicions about his wife’s loyalty is accidentally injured, seriously, as they quarrel.

To save her husband’s life, the woman has to turn a broken accordion into an oxygen pump. The director, Alexey Fedorchenko, said he got the inspiration from a Chinese news report about such an unlikely use of the musical instrument. He made this comment while in Chengdu.

Movie coproduced by BRICS countries to be showcased at Xiamen BRICS Summit

The poster of film Where Has Time Gone?.

Jia said the story which surprised him most was the South African one, Stillborn, a sci­fi tale about a janitor who fought against her destiny, pre­programed in a futuristic world.

“It explores the recycling of life with a rich imagination,” he said.

For most Chinese viewers the Indian story, Mumbai Mist, may strike the most resonant chord. In a sprawling city, a retired man drives away loneliness by befriending a street boy.

In Revive, the Chinese short story of Where Has Time Gone?, Jia again shows his stylish bent for depicting modern Chinese and the confused lives they lead.

The story, set in Pingyao, a town in Shanxi province, centers on a middle-aged couple who wrestle with the question of whether they should have a second child.

The story begins with a comedy scene in which a man brandishing a sword jumps off an ancient section of wall to fight against a group of hunters who are chasing him and want to capture him, until several tourists show up and use their smartphones to take photos. The couple and their neighbors are all live action performers working and living in the town.

“I’ve always wanted to shoot a modern story that is set in an ancient town,” Jia said.

“Pingyao has a history that goes back more than 3,000 years. It has been flooded by youngsters since it became a tourist attraction. To some extent, the newcomers have breathed life into the old town.”

In addition, Jia has long been fascinated by the topic of couples having a second child and going through middle life crises.

“Since the country adopted the policy that allows families to have a second child, many couples have expressed the wish to do so,” he said.

“But they also encounter many problems, such as economic stress and gaining approval for their decision from the first child.

“I also wanted to shoot a story about a couple reigniting their enthusiasm for one another and for the own lives after being married for many years.”

Jia added he took part in similar projects, before Where Has Time Gone?, that brought filmmakers from multiple countries together.

“They were initiated by South Korea and Switzerland. I feel so proud that now I can join a Chinese led project. The coproduction is making history by transforming BRICS from a political and economic concept into a cultural one,” he said.

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