HKIFF Week 4: 二十四城記 (24 City)

二十四城記 (24 City) was the closing film of the HKIFF 2009: half-documentary, half-drama, it tells the story of the demolition of an arms manufacturing factory block in Chengdu – the 420 – and the construction of real estate, the 24 City, in its place. Intercutting interviews of real life workers who spent the better half of their lives working and living on the 420 block, and dramatised interviews with workers played by actors (e.g. Joan Chen), the film brings out the social impact of the rise and fall of industrialisation in communist China. Young comrades travel long distances to work in the big cities, becoming separated from their families; some of them get married and raise their own families on the factory block: it becomes a surrogate home for them, to which they develop a sense of belonging. Real and fictionalised interviews of the generation born in the late ’70s and early ’80s portray them as emancipated, to some extent – they are no longer bound to a life of hunching over machines in grim factories, and can afford to live comfortably and (relatively) freely. A memorable interview was that of a young girl, rollerskating on what appeared to be the roof of a building, so free of worries: even though both her parents work inside the 420, she has never been there. The conclusion of the film is optimistic: the future is bright (or at least brighter) for the kids. The film was shot beautifully – even the manufacturing process and the demolition looked poetic – and the choice of music was pleasantly nostalgic, with ありがとうあなた (Arigatou Anata, or “Thank you“) by 山口百惠 (!), 外面的世界 (“The World Outside") by 齊秦, etc. The real interviews did jar with the dramatised ones though: however skilled the actors were, they could not manage to be as authentic as the bona fide workers (Joan Chen was a bit too glamorous to be convincing as a factory worker, for example). It was a tale worth telling (and hearing) though, a slightly poignant coda for this year’s HKIFF (not counting the Bergman and Antonioni retrospectives to follow!).

24city

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Filed under Hong Kong, Love

One response to “HKIFF Week 4: 二十四城記 (24 City)

  1. Don’t forget that the Evan Yang retrospective continues at the HK Film Archive! 😉

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