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Jia Zhangke's Modern Weekly short

Jia Zhangke shot this short film, "Remembrance" (十年), for Modern Weekly's special tenth anniversary issue. Video via Tudou, or on a DVD included with the magazine. More below.

Modern Weekly interviewed Jia while he was working on the film:

Modern Weekly: What motivated you to shoot this film?
Jia Zhangke: The 500th issue of Modern Weekly and the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Modern Media Group is an occasion worth commemorating. I've known Thomas Shao for a long time and we have a close friendship. He's helped me a lot over the years, particularly in 2004 when I was shooting The World, he helped with the premieres in a lot of cities. In addition, Modern Weekly's an old friend of mine. They'd already begun to report on me when I was shooting underground films, and that precious friendship makes this an entirely emotional work. And then the tenth anniversary: it's actually not just the tenth anniversary of Modern Media, but my own tenth anniversary in film. This could be my own reminiscence, so under these circumstances I was particularly delighted to shoot this short. It's just that I was given too little time to do it.
...
MW: Did you write the script yourself?
Jia: Yes. I wrote it while traveling. I was in Turkey at the time, and from that distance it was actually pretty easy to put together ten years of events. So even though this is just a short clip, between eight and fifteen minutes long, it incorporates the major events that have taken place in Chinese society between 1998 and today. For example it'll include the turn of the millennium, the successful Olympics bid, SARS, and the successful staging of the Olympics. So this film brings together individual growth, company growth, and national growth. Even though it was tailor-made for Modern Media, I believe that it also encompasses the past ten years of people all over China.

The magazine also spoke with the lead actor and actress. Zhao Tao, who frequently appears in Jia's work, gave some insight into the production process:

Modern Weekly: Does this role hold any special meaning for you?
Zhao Tao: When I read the script, I felt that this was one of the director's more complete short films. I saw the story of how a girl transcends herself over the course of ten years. The man she loves tests into college, but she's just an attendant in a train dining car. To be with the one she loves, she pushes herself to study and eventually gets into college, becomes a white-collar worker, and ultimately enjoys a happy life dressed in evening wear.
...
MW: What made the greatest impression on you during the filming process?
Zhao: Everyone worked really hard. The whole crew did four or five days of work in just three days. I went straight into makeup after getting up at 6 am and worked all the way until midnight. Because we all liked working with Director Jia, we didn't care about the compensation, and for Jia, this was a way of paying back Mr. Shao for his help in 2004, so we tried to do our best.

MW: Was there anything special about the filming process?
Zhao: Even though it was just a short film, Director Jia had really strict standards for the entire process. He shot using both film and digital, and used a lot of extras and scenes. He put a lot of effort into pre-production: the first day we spent two and a half hours finding the right location. For a scene on a dam this afternoon, the sky was perfect, and I pushed a cart through amber grass up a mountain as the sun's rays splashed about me. Even though my hands were numb from the cold, when we went back and looked at it after we were finished it was really, really beautiful, so it was worth it. A director doesn't actually have to be so particular about these things, but for this he really wanted to be extremely careful about every little detail, so when we were shooting, we'd always hear him say, "Hmm. That was pretty good! But let's do it again!"

Jia's fascination with trains may make this short film seem familiar, but Remembrance also has a direct connection to earlier short, Ten Years (我们的十年), which Jia shot for the tenth anniversary of Southern Metropolis Daily in 2007.

That film also featured Zhao Tao on a decade-long train ride, an old photograph, and SARS masks. But Remembrance is slicker and more commercial, much like Modern Weekly itself.

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Comments on Jia Zhangke's Modern Weekly short

The train and station are always the favorite or Jia Zhangke which contains his dream. Jia's films often give a short review of true China. During this film, I found Zhao Tao became old comparing the former characters she play. When the time passes with hault and everything is still plain, it only makes me feel disappoint to the life.-To the beautiful Yin Ruijuan in Zhantai...

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