Jia Zhangke: China Must End Silence on Injustice

Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin (天注定), a film containing enough violence for critics to have conjured thoughts of Tarantino, won best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival last month. Just prior to taking the prize, Jia told the Hollywood Reporter of hopes that this newest film, which weaves together four stories of injustice and is described as being “based on true events,” could help to bring about change in China. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Jia speaks about his intentions to use violent depictions to inspire a national examination of the “roots of violence” in Chinese society:

[…]”I don’t admire or worship violence,” Jia said. “To fight violence with violence is a tragedy. This film seeks the roots of violence.”

In the past, he said, social changes had led to personal crises, but the problems had been partially hidden. “Partly it’s that social problems have been more intense than before … In the past, the corruption was not beyond imagination, but now, the reality is surreal to us … The [former] minister for railways went on trial and it was said he had more than 300 properties.

“The gap between rich and poor is also increasing,” Jia said. “The bigger the difference is, the more [these] hidden, disturbed emotions grow.”

But ordinary people were also increasingly aware of the injustices, he said, and their tolerance was shrinking. “In recent years people have chosen to solve [their personal crises] in a violent way,” the film-maker added.

[…]Jia sees silence in the face of wrongs as a sin, but not everyone agrees, he said: “Chinese society is strange: people feel if you talk about sad or tragic things it will have even more of a negative impact on society. It’s really strange logic. If you can’t even face it in a film, how can you face it in reality? If even films cannot refer to [violence], it will always be unfamiliar to us and violent incidents will increase.” [Source]

Also see prior CDT coverage of filmmaker Jia Zhangke.