Fujian Blue

Fujian Blue


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Consideration of the changing face of China is high on the filmmaking agenda at the moment - and doubtless set to peak with the Beijing Olympics this summer. If it isn't documentarians - Up The Yangtze, Mardi Gras: Made In China, China Blue - considering the impact of industrialisation, the flooding necessitated by the Three Gorges dam or the "Little Emperors" created by the one-child policy, it's fiction that draws heavily on these issues - Still Life, Lost In Beijing, and now Fujian Blue.

Here Robert Weng is again examining the state of modern China, with particular reference to the impact of the West on all aspects of society. Fujian province is the "golden triangle of human trafficking".

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Many of the men jump ship for other countries, leaving "remittance widows" living in splendid isolation for decades while their husbands send cash back from afar. The emphasis is on being spoilt and bored - a situation which in many cases extends to the children. "Little Emperors" - those single-child offspring who have more cash and attention lavished on them than previous generations - rule the roost and have come to symbolise "consumerism" at its height. Think Generation X pushed to the max.

This is, of course, only one half of the coin and Weng's film, which is split into two, reflects the other side, as well. If the cities are magnets for gangs and money, the villages are home to poverty and dreams of escape. Here those with little in the first place often find themselves in thrall to the traffickers, trying to pay off debts for those who have been smuggled out - sometimes without even knowing they are safe on the "other side".

It is these themes that Weng explores through a series of incidents rather than a cast-iron plot. There is a story - a group of city youths who dub themselves "The Neon Knights - Amerika", are in the space beyond bored where mischief is as attractive as cash. They have found a way to generate both, by photographing remittance widows out on the pull and then blackmailing them - "turning pussy into gold". As with all get-rich-quick-schemes things turn ugly when Amerika - the main man in the Neon Knights - discovers his own mum is looking for love rather than waiting for daddy and decides she should be the next target.

The consequences of this are a driving force of the second part of the film, which focuses on another member of the group, Dragon. He is up for the blackmail but his need for cash is much more prosaic than that of the rest of the gang. Desperate to pay off an existing debt and raise enough money to send his sister overseas for a better life, he ends up on the run in his home town as reality increasingly threatens his dreams.

This is not a film seeking resolution, but a snapshot of life, inviting scrutiny. Weng doesn't so much focus on these issues - along with the tensions between Taiwan and China - as use them as a backdrop to show how they affect even the smallest of the characters' decisions. This is, ultimately, like so many independent western films about youth, an examination of societal failure rather than a specific scam. The episodic nature of the plot may not be for everyone but Weng's film rewards a closer look.

Reviewed on: 10 Jul 2008
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Dual stories analyse societal breakdown in modern China.

Director: Robin Weng

Writer: Robin Weng

Starring: Luo Jin, Zhu Xiaopeng, Chen Shu, Wang Yinan, Lin Yile, Liu Haochen, Li Zhaolin

Year: 2007

Runtime: 87 minutes

Country: China


EIFF 2008

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If you like this, try:

Lost In Beijing
Up The Yangtze