Today I went to the cinema to see Tuya’s Marriage (图雅的婚事), the film that won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. The film is set in Inner Mongolia and revolves around the willful and witty Tuya. Since the spoken language is not so standard Mandarin and I watched this with only Chinese subtitles I might not be clear on all the details, but the story goes something like this: Tuya’s husband Bater is bound to a wheelchair and can’t help with the family’s sheep or do any other useful work. Out of pity for his wife, Bater wants to divorce so that Tuya can find a man who can better care for her and the two children. However, Tuya cares very much about Bater and will only accept a proposal if the the new husband also agrees to care for him. There are several proposals and the developments that follow put quite an emotional pressure on both Tuya and Bater.
Looking at the poster, I expected this film to be a serious act shot in gray and brown colors. To my surprise the dialogue is often witty, especially on the part of Tuya. The characters and their words still linger in my mind after leaving the cinema, which is certainly not true of all films. The cinematography isn’t bad either, making the dull plains of Inner Mongolia more interesting than they probably are. If Tuya’s Marriage comes to your country (in the cinemas or on DVD) don’t miss it!
My rating: 4 out of 5 sheep
What a few Chinese bloggers are saying:
Tuya should love Bater, but if she really does why does she divorce him? […] This kind of sacrifice doesn’t seem to have any meaning.
Tuya’s Marriage […] has none of the tiring sour narcissistic quality of some of the sixth generation director’s so called art films.
Wang Quanan displays his outstanding control over the medium. He can make the audience cry, for example when…
I just saw on CCTV 9’s Culture Express that Jackie Chan (成龙) is launching a TV show to search for his successor. This is very good news as Jackie Chan was at his peak in the 70’s with Drunken Master (醉拳) and hasn’t been quite so agile lately. The Disciple (“龙”的传人), as the show is called, will be aired on a local Beijing TV channel. If you are of Chinese origin and feel the calling, why not sign up? The top 10 contenders will appear in a movie produced by Jackie Chan, to premier before the 2008 Olympics.
Chan has actually already realized that his real successor is Tony Jaa of Ong-Bak fame. Jaa was offered a part in Rush Hour 3, but he was busy and declined.
Homework for everyone’s entertainment.
English translation below.
I’ve done some research on Chinese copyright law with the purpose of learning the copyright term of movies produced in China. Having searched for a long time without results I finally sent an email to the Creative Commons China mailing list asking my question. They referred me to an English translation of the Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China. Here’s what I found: (Article 21)
The term of protection for the right of publication or protection for the right of publication or the rights referred to in Article 10, paragraphs (5) to (17), of this Law in respect of a cinematographic work, a work created by virtue of an analogous method of film production or a photographic work shall be fifty years, and expires on 31 December of the fiftieth year after the first publication of such work, provided that any such work that has not been published within fifty years after the completion of its creation shall no longer be protected under this Law.
This means that movies made before 1957 can now be freely distributed. I’ve already uploaded the 1941 animated film Princess Iron Fan to archive.org and hope to be able to make more old movies available in the future.
I am currently working on English subtitles for Princess Iron Fan. All help is appreciated!
Sun Wukong in Princess Iron Fan
After 2 weeks in school I’ve changed classes twice and in the end only take 5 classes with a total of 18 hours per week. The main Chinese class has the greatest teacher ever, teacher Zhang (张老师). She’s a middle aged woman who dresses formally, wears a big smile and doesn’t waste a minute of class time with nonsense. There is only one teacher who is a bit vague in her teaching. She’s the same age as me so I guess it will work out with a few years of experience.
I’ve taken a closer look to find that the person on the North Korean’s badges is the Eternal President of the Republic, Kim Il-sung (i.e. the deceased father). Also, not all of the North Koreans are teachers. One studies automatic control, the stuff you need to make missiles hit their targets (when I studied it in Sweden the examples were often military aircrafts or similar). Actually, automatic control is used in lots of industrial processes, so there’s no need to jump to conclusions. If I were a bit less lame I would just ask him.
The Spring Festival is over and by now I’m almost certain that it’s some kind of mass psychosis. During all the 15 days of celebration there have been fireworks and yesterday the car alarms rang one last time to welcome the new year. I’ve heard that one person was killed and many others injured by fireworks during the festival.
Today classes started again. I’ve jumped up a level since last semester so things are a little different now. I have 2 mandatory courses and 4 selectable courses, in total 20 hours per week. I’ve only had one subject today, so I don’t know yet how things are going to be, but it seems that the level is OK anyway. One seriously cool thing is that I have no less than 5 North Koreans in my class. All of them are men over 40 and some or all of them are teachers. What’s more, all of them wear badges with the beloved leader Kim Jong-il (or maybe his dad, I haven’t looked closely). Given that North Koreans generally can’t leave their country I had never expected to see them in real life, much less talk to them. I’m not sure why but it’s kind of exciting!
My parents will soon be going home to Sweden, so today we made a last little trip. The destination was the small mountain village Chuandixia (川底下) which is two hours west of Beijing by car. In the morning I talked to one of the “freelance” taxi drivers outside of my gate, gave him a look at the map and asked how much he would want to take us there, wait three hours and then take us home. 260 RMB. We jumped in but not having travelled 100 meters he realized he didn’t really know how to get there and called another driver. We waited a while for the new guy to get out of bed and then switched car to his flashy new Volkswagen. He didn’t think 260 RMB sounded to good and wanted 300 RMB which was OK with us. Off we go!
The town is made up of a few hundred buildings thrown up on the foot of a mountain. Since the Ming dynasty this town has been so backwards and uninteresting the houses haven’t changed much at all. When someone discovered this they made the town into a living museum and began charging for entrance. Today both the inhabitants and the tourists were very few so it was quiter than any other place I’ve been to in China so far.
Some of the buildings are very worn down, but there are still many left in good shape.
It’s not only ancient architecture that has been preserved, slogans written on the walls in the Mao era are also left intact.
I’m not positive, but it means something like “Use Mao Zedong’s thought to arm ourselves.” If you know what 头脐 means, please leave me a comment! On the next wall was written “Workers of the world, unite!” Perhaps a lot of people associate this kind of thing with China, but this is actually the first time I’ve seen it in these six months. It seems that ideology isn’t very fashionable in the modern China.
On the way home our driver was complaining that 300 RMB was too little and that he hadn’t realized how far it was. This was probably partially true since the first guy we made the 260 RMB deal with told our second driver that it wasn’t very far, not taking much notice of the distance on the map. Taxi drivers (not just “freelance” drivers) occasionally (try to) trick me in different ways, but I figured 300 RMB was a bit on the low side and offered him 400 RMB. Suddenly he wanted 600 RMB which was plain ridiculous so I just said it was to expensive and we didn’t discuss it anymore. When we arrived back home he again started whining about the 400 RMB I gave him, so I began delivering the prepared “we already agreed on the price” speech. He interrupted me half way through at which point we just walked away. Haggling is very common in China, but trying to double an already negotiated price is just insulting.
Check out my Chuandixia flickr set for some more pictures.
My parents have come to visit me and we’ve travelled to Hangzhou (close to Shanghai) for a few days. With a population of 6 million it’s considered a small city in China and the air is much better than in Beijing. Hangzhou is in the south so it’s a little warmer, spring has already arrived. Our hotel is quite close to West Lake – the main attraction of this city – so we’ve been spending the day discovering it.
My mother discovered the joys of being grabbed in both arms and forcefully photographed by happy Chinese tourists (probably because she has blonde hair). I know by experience that shouting “I am not a zoo” has no effect what so ever, so there’s really nothing to do about it.
We strolled around for about six hours, taking the tourist boat to the islands in the middle of the lake. I took some photos for your viewing pleasure:
Bridge by West Lake
Cherry blossom and Chinese pavillion
This is a very naughty tree. It was caught talking a lot of nonsense about Taiwanese independence and was swiftly dealt with.
There are more pictures in my flickr Hangzhou set.
Tonight is the Spring Festival (the Chinese new year) and it’s like a war zone. Starting at nine o’clock people began building up to an ear-deafening frenzy of fireworks and firecrackers which was simply unbelievable. The firecrackers were bigger, louder and more dangerous than any I’ve seen before:
Gunpowder smoke and metal oxides created a mist that lay thickly on the streets. The really big fireworks triggered a few car alarms, adding to the feeling that the world was coming to an end. I’ve been told that the Spring Festival is a traditional family holiday, but first and foremost I will remember it as a celebration of shellshock. These video clips don’t quite do justice to the scene, but they’re something to look at anyway: