World, directed by Jia Zhangke, 2005, China

The most recent film (139 minutes) by Jia (“the world’s greatest filmmaker under 40,” according to Dennis Lim of the Village Voice) is another commentary on contemprary China in the age of globalization. The World focuses on a dancer, a security guard, and others who live and work at World Park, a Beijing theme park that boasts scale replicas of some of the world’s most iconic buildings. In this kitsch version of the global village, these poor provincial workers with real hopes stand in stark constrast to an ersatz environment of fakes and forgeries. “The best new film I saw anywhere in 2004.” (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader)

Xiaotao Zhao, a kind-hearted and amiable young woman from Shanxi Province; like millions from rural areas flocking into big cities in search of a better life, she comes to Beijing with little money; lives in train stations and basements before finding a job as an exotic dancer in a theme park in the suburb of China’s capital; visited by ex-boyfriend who is Mongolia-bound and who is still interested in her in spite of his mother’s interference; dying to see more of Beijing and the world beyond this make-believe park; pursued romantically by some one who follows her from her native land; holds out sex which she believes is her only “capital” in this world of commodity; asks his boyfriend to marry her after she gives her body and soul to her boyfriend but finds out he is unfaithful; dies along with him of poisonous gas from a coal stove in the room where they sleep
Taisheng Shia security guard in he same theme park as Xiaotao who follows her to Beijing from the same native land as Xiaotao; while good nature, very pragmatic and goal-oriented in his dealings with people around him; likes to control and use while often controlled and used by people around him; provides phony identification cards and certificates for people who secured his job, and runs errands for them out of obligation; kind and helpful to men from his native town; a womanizer that pursues Xiaotao and other women more as sexual conquests than as spiritual companions; his sexual promiscuity and inability to be faithful to Xiaotao are signs of people in displacement
Anna, a Russian woman who comes to China along with a group of Russian dancers and works briefly also at the theme park where Xiaotao works; married with two children (Igor and Aliosha) and has a sister living in the city of Ulan Bator, Mongolia, whom she hopes she will visit one day when she has enough money; leaves the theme park and starts working as a prostitute to support her children and to be able to visit her sister some day; a personal friend and confidante of Xiaotao who envies her for having the opportunity to travel and see the world
Little Sister (“Er Guniang” or Li Zhihua)a young man in his 20s who grew up with Taisheng; comes to Beijing with his friend in search of job and finds it when he starts working for a construction company; often does double shifts for overtime pay; gradually learns to speak Mandarin rather than his local dialect; but still quite used to being called “little sister”, the way his mother used to call him when he grew up because she had expected her second child to be a girl; sometimes wonders what kind of people fly in airplanes; dies of work-related accident in which he falls from a scaffold; keeps an I.O.U. in his pocket in the amount of less than 100 yuan; his death brings his parents lots of cash
Liao, a middle aged business woman from Wenzhou, Fujian Province; a dressmaker in a sweatshop making fashionable clothes as modeled in foreign magazines; brother is a compulsive gambler often in debts; in her tenth year separation from husband who was smuggled to France along with over 50 people and among the 7 who arrived alive; has lived in Beijing for 8 years alone; finds Taisheng attractive and has an affair with him that lasts till she gets her French visa to visit her husband
Old Songa shady character who is Taisheng’s business associate; asks Taisheng for fake residential identification cards in order to increase his cell phone sale; pays Taisheng from time to time when favors from him are needed; his business dealings often illegal and illegitimate
Xiao Wei and Lao Niu, a young couple both working as dancers in the theme park; Niu (male) has problem securing Wei’s love and affection and does not trust her when she is alone; he insists that she is available and reachable (by cell phone) all the time; like Xiaotao, Wei does not want to settle to one man prematurely; she dates other men and resents Niu’s sense of insecurity; their on-and-off relation ends in marriage
San Laizia man in his 30s; comes to Beijing to seek work with “Little Sister”; because of his age, feels responsible for him to some extent and often looks after him as much as he can as a brother; works in the same construction companion as Little Sister, and present when the latter dies in the hospital


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