Beijing Bastards


Beijing Bastards
[Beijing zazhong, 1993]
Film
Beijing Bastards was the second feature film by independent director Zhang Yuan. Censored in China and first shown at the Locarno Film Festival and the Singapore Film Festival, it gave ‘underground film’ its name in Chinese cinema. Based on a loose script, the film is deeply honest in dealing with a group of young aspiring artists in the Beijing semi-underground of the 1990s. A painter, a writer, a bar owner and a musician—the latter played by the famous rock-star Cui Jian—deal with issues of relationships, pregnancy, abortion, money problems and future worries. Without a finished script and featuring Zhang Yuan’s friends as actors, it is a highly improvised film, much as the lives portrayed in it are. Nevertheless, the drifting and sense of loss of this subculture youth is not presented as a dead end.
Ultimately, the characters come to the painful but life-changing realization that they only care about themselves.
Released in 1993, it has established director Zhang Yuan as a leading member of the Sixth Generation of independent filmmakers in the 1990s. His exploration of aspects of contemporary city life in China made him the main representative of urban realism. The dark energy of frustration and alienation in Beijing Bastards, the semi-documentary style, the handheld camera and the gloomy lighting initiated the departure from the largely epic and allegorical visions of the Fifth Generation directors before him.
Jaivin, Linda. (1995). ‘Beijing Bastards—the New Revolution’. Chime 8 (Spring):99–103.
Kuoshu, Harry (1999). ‘Beijing Bastards, the Sixth Generation Directors, and “Generation-X” in China’. Asian Cinema 10.2 (Spring/Summer):18–28.
BIRGIT LINDER

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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