Docs & Talks/ 6


It worked very well: The screening of the Chinese film followed by a talk with a good panel and an interested audience. There was full house in the cinema last night at Cinemateket in Copenhagen for the opening of the festival, that continues in the coming days.

For three years the director had followed the construction of a highway in the Hunan province – a highway that was opened in 2013. As one of the panelists, third from right on the photo, Yang Jiang, who works at DIIS (Danish Institute for International Studies) said, ”it’s a thriller and a dark comedy”, a very precise characterisation of a film that puts its focus on the people involved in the building; those who had to move from their house – the locals – those who work their – the laborers – and those who fight to get recompensation for their lost work because of assaults from hired gangsters – the fighters. The locals, the laborers, the fighters, this is how the film is chaptered, a film that has many layers and many protagonists. Mr. Meng is the man from the

construction company, who is the one who promises and promises the workers that they will be paid, and there is grandma Ou and her son, who have to move… and many, many others.

The construction company is to be supervised by the local communist party members, who are the ones to exercise the government’s plan to make a new infrastructure for China. Yang Jiang said that what we saw is just one case in the strategy for a new infrastructure and it has actually helped the Chinese economy. That has experienced a boom, said another panelist, Luke Patey, also from DIIS (outside the photo) but has not made the Chinese population in general more happy; research has proved that.

There were questions from the audience to the film and luckily Steen Johannesen, Danish editor on the film, was present. He could answer some film-related questions. One was of course why the people in the film talked so openly about corruption; there are several scenes where you actually see envelopes go from the hands of the construction company representatives to the local party members. Johannesen’s answer to that was very simple: They are open-mouthed as they know that the film will never be shown to a bigger audience! Professor Jun Liu from Copenhagen University talked about the ”red envelope” tradition in China, which is not only meant for bribing but is also a common family tradition, where older people – as an example – give the young ones money. But, he stressed, it is never revealed how much money there is in the envelope!

For me the film is about inequality Luke Patey said as an answer to a question from a man in the audience, who did not really experience, what the film wanted to say. Johannesen said that the main theme for him was the corruption. One could add the total disrespect shown in the film towards the environment or to the graves, to history that have to go because the highway, the catastrophic working conditions, the lack of organisation of the workers, the late payments and compensations, the mafia methods etc. etc.

When you create a concept like Docs & Talks you have to be sure that the film can create debate and make an audience curious to know more. This opening event presented a perfect match thanks to a good film and a good panel.

The Danish co-producer of the film is Plus Pictures/ Mette Heide, the film has been supported by DFI (Danish Film Institute), DR, SVT, IKON from Holland and others and has had a strong festival carreer.

Photo: From left Jun Liu, Yang Jiang, moderator journalist Lene Winther and editor Steen Johannesen.

China, Denmark, 2015, 95 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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