Born in Beijing (Jingsheng)
Director: Ma Li
Format: Digital Video
Length: 240 mins
Time of Release: 2012
Here, a strange village, a strange group of people, a strange encounter.
The director spent six years digging deep into a village-in-the city in Beijing, a “petition” village. With her digital video camera, she starts a series of spiritual conversations with petitioners from all around China, and constructs, in this limited space, a reality so rarely known and yet so connected to the everyday life of this country.
Jingsheng, the titular character was born on the road of her mother, Mrs. Hao’s first petitioning journey toward Beijing, thus her name, which means literally “born in Beijing”. Since then, she has accompanied her mother on the road of petitioning for more than thirty years. In this film, small, humble human beings such as Jingsheng and her mother’s unique experiences and internal struggles were brought to our consciousness. The film started with the story of this village of “petition”, but the narrative was not limited to individual cases and went past the normal humdrum of complaints. It tried to depict the internal reality of every crawling creature. The entire film was devoid of color and used bold black-and-white imageries. The cinematography was powerful and steady, rhythm slow yet intense.
The director displayed complex human natures in the ever-changing and ruthless contemporary China. Rich emotions were intertwined with objective observations. It does not stop at charging the reality with the fringe society’s misfortune, and does not stop at aesthetic therapy either. It avoids the typical curiosity bait and cheap lyricism prevalent in this genre, but aims at prompting people to face their inner side, to face reality, and reflect upon the thin line between light and darkness.
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angelic?
–Rainer Maria Rilke
It’s a freezing winter night.
After this very night, the last little hut in this village will be demolished. This village, after years and years of existence, had itself named, as the “petition” village. This night, in the little hut in the ruins, people are helpless. It’s not the first time they are abandoned and ignored. It will not be the last.
Tomorrow morning, people will leave in hurry. No one knows where to sleep at night, but no one will leave Beijing.
Two month later.
They will have a new life in a new petition village in a new corner of the city. This is the first rental shop opened by a seasoned petitioner. Mrs. Hao is the owner of the shop, with a record of 33 years in the petitioning business. Her reason to petition sounds absurd today, but she does not cower. Her daughter was born on the road of her first trip to Beijing. The daughter is 33 years old now, and she was named “Jingsheng,” born in Beijing.
We can finish another version of A Thousand and One Nights in this village.
For that, I moved myself and my digital video camera into the village. Or to put it more precisely, I started lurking here, for six entire years.
Without a doubt, this is a group of obsessive people, doing a seemingly obsessive deed. For that, they pain, they cry, they throw away their youth and strength, even their lives. All they want is that one day, they can win their cases and go back home in happiness, but they are caught in an invisible net, in unfamiliar land.
I witnessed the vast distance between their lives and their understanding of victory. I saw the conflict and splits in their personalities as they venture to close the gap. Through endless time, in the background of an invading and encroaching metropolis, they cowardly shoulder their loads of unresolvable humiliation and expectation. They leave on this earth an arc of life, if miserable, in this humble village at the foot of the great Emperor City.
I understand their hope, their helplessness, their misery, anger, even desperation. Their bravery and strength to survive in such difficulty puts me in awe. I emphasize with their soreness and bitterness, from being almost illiterate to being well versed in Constitutional law. I also detest their short-sightedness and cowardice, expressed in coarse words, them going into the obsessive extremes after their suffering seems unable to see the light of the day and choosing brash, suicidal means on this life path stricken with poverty and suffering.
They always ask me this question, full of expectation, that if I were them, what would I do? I’m speechless. I have never encountered anything nearly as ridiculous and absurd as they did. And I have neither the ability nor the strength to protect and save them. I cannot answer their question.
They often feel it takes much bigger courage for me, as a girl, to break into their world. They look at me full of gratefulness and care. I’m humiliated as a result. I often want to persuade them to leave this village, to go back to their home. But when they start crying out that they can’t go back, tears running down, I doubted in pain, that my persuasive words are destroying the fortress they built with all they have got, at the cost of sacrificing their quality of life, their dignity, their homeland, even life, petty as it is.
As a documentary filmmaker, I’m not aiming at documenting all the pain and tears, all the injustice and absurdity of this village just to call for sympathy, or advocacy. I’m also not just aiming at providing an alienated, variegated world unfamiliar to people for curiosity’s sake, so that people have something to talk about at dinner. I think, as a documentary filmmaker, if I fall in love with the misfortune of this village, all my documents would be meaningless. I would rather give up.
In the petition village, I was forced to accept life stories tainted with the powerful fate. The village made me realize sharp conflicts life almost always fails to self-explain, and the eagerness people want to understand, to interpret. All that is not explainable by those simple judicially mishandled cases they brought with them when they set off. I saw the predicament of life, like a giant net, is catching people without them realizing it. Once you are caught, there is no going forward or backward. One’s motivation at the beginning is disembodied, and his direction gets lost. People follow the conflicts of the complex life in total despair, making one inexplicable choice after another. Such self-repeating cycles always accumulate, until they are sent into this disfigured village.
This predicament. We know it so well, yet it’s so strange at the same time.
Past Awards and Exhibitions:
Rotterdam International Film Festival: China Focus, 2012
Critic’s Award for the FIRST Young Filmmaker’s Festival, 2012
Chameleon Award for the first Seoul Digital Film Festival, 2012
Critic’s Award, Beijing Independent Film Festival, 2012
Real Character Award, China Independent Film Festival, 2012
Bronze Award, Sunshine Chinese Documentary Award, 2012 (two-hour version).
All in the world are like mirror images. Without mirror, there will be no image. People are obsessed with the images, but they forget about the mirror,
They don’t know images are illusory, but the mirror is real. Though the images were illusions, their natures aren’t.
Format: HD Video
Length: 120 mins
Director: Ma Li
Time of Release: 2011
Shiqu, Sichuan, China – high altitude ethnic Tibetan area standing at 4500 meters above sea level. Lying there, on the edge of the world’s highest county town is a temple – Sexu Temple, a medium-sized, hardly noteworthy Tibetan Buddhist temple.
The film centers around the Sexu Temple, observing from multiple points inside its organism, including the Retreat Space, Debate Space, Scripture Convention, Celestial Burial Platform, among others, and tells multiple stories through five Lamars, one celestial burial master, and a secularized monk. It documents the unique life experiences and spiritual faiths of people living on plateau and displays the rarely known internal worlds of people living in extreme condition.
The film not only shapes a grand structure of narrative, paying attention to the everyday life on plateau, the Tibetan Buddhist teaching, and the monks in the temple, but also captures the subtle details involved in such setting. The director, with all her sincerity and perseverance, managed to knock open the mysterious small door of the always-enclosed Retreat Space and interviewed multiple practicing Lamars who had been in retreat for 2 to as long as 17 years. The crew, by happenstance, also came across the big annual Convention, and was allowed to document the whole process of celestial burial. This is a film with unique perspective, intense yet smooth rhythm, clean, aesthetically pleasing images and rich, subtle cinematic language.
One cannot avoid the topic of the plateau and religion. But as a director, I prefer the audience to go past ordinary curiosity to watch this documentary.
Shiqu, Sichuan, is the highest county in the entire world. Sexu Temple is located on the edge of the county town, 4500 meters above sea level, almost uninhabitable.
There are lots of temples on the plateau, more than villages. Sexu Temple is neither the biggest nor the smallest. It is ordinary. People living on the plateau need temples. They protect their lives and their souls.
It’s high and cold, thus the loneliness. Few people come here, and few leave. Before the plateau was opened to the outside, no one told them there was a world out there. They were not informed of the possibility, to go away, to see more.
So, generation after generation of plateau people rotates around the mountain, follows the temple, and observes ancient Buddhist teachings. They live their lives, generation after generation, on the sometimes sunny, sometimes snowy plateau.
Turning the draconic living situation around is impossible. Perhaps people realized this a long time ago. So they invented a poetic way to go through life. They imagine the next life to be in heaven, in happiness. They rely on Buddha’s laws, to repress their restlessness and anxiety. They try their best to face this life’s suffering and sadness, because they believe once you are on the celestial burial platform, once you devote your life to the vultures in the sky, your soul is going to heaven.
Life is complex. They also struggle, they doubt, they wonder. But any wavering is minimal. The moon hangs on top of the temple at night, sometimes bright, sometimes dark, night after night. Sometimes I feel like I’m planted on this plateau, one that is without history, and without time.
Yunnan Multi Culture Visual Festival, 2011
Critic’s Award and Best Technical Merit Award, Beijing New Youth Film Festival, 2011
Festival International Jean Rouch, 2011
类 型： 纪录片
规 格： DV
片 长： 240分钟
导 演： 马莉
出 品： 2012年
片 名《京生》取自片中主人公的名字，她出生于母亲老郝来京上访的路上，从此，陪同母亲在京上访长达三十多年。影片讲述了以京生和她的母亲为代表的一群卑微的 小人物们的独特遭遇和内心挣扎。影片从上访村的故事开始，摆脱个案，超越抱怨，讲出了所有爬行着的人的命运。全片摒弃色彩，大胆使用黑白影像，取景沉稳有 力，节奏沉缓却富于张力。
导演从容展现了中国当代社会的无奈现状和变革时代的复杂人性，既有冷静而客观的观察，同时又饱含着感同身受的真情 实感 。影片从边缘群体切入，却不满足于对现状的控诉，也不止步于艺术的疗伤，更不贪恋对弱势人群的猎奇和廉价的煽情。它驱使我们面对内心，面对真实，反思光明 与黑暗。
我 理解他们期待、无奈、痛楚、愤懑甚至绝望的复杂情感；我惊叹他们在困境中顽强存活的勇气和力量；我悲哀于他们中的大多数胸无点墨却捍卫成通晓宪法的艰辛和 酸楚；我敬佩他们历尽人生冷漠和残酷之后依然牢牢坚守着的质朴与善良；我也痛恨他们粗砺的言词中流露的短视与懦弱、他们在苦难无法得到消解之后蔓延的偏激 与固执，他们在穷途之中选择方式的莽撞和自戕。
他 们总是觉得我一个女孩单身闯入他们的世界需要更大的勇气， 他们的目光充满感激和呵护。我羞愧无比。我常常希望能劝慰他们能离开那个村庄，回到自己的家乡。可是当他们泪流满面的哭喊着回不去的那一刻，我痛苦地怀 疑，自己的劝慰是否损伤他们用全部的身心，以牺牲生活品质、尊严、家乡甚至生命为代价建筑起来的异乡堡垒，尽管它是那么的卑微。
作 为一个纪录片工作者，我并不是仅仅想将这个村庄里的苦难和泪水，不公或者荒谬纪录进我的影像来博取怜悯然后激发呐喊。我也并非猎奇，来勾勒一个被大多数人 遗忘或者从来不曾知道的，那个世界的万姿千态来供自我或者他人饭后的谈资。我以为，作为一名纪录片工作者，如果因为故事因为情节而爱上这个村庄的不幸，那 么纪录将失去全部意义，我宁愿选择放弃。
在上访村，我被迫接纳强大的命运经盘嘲弄出的人生故事。村庄让我看到，生 活中永远不能解释出来的尖锐的冲突，以及人们迫切需要理解和解释它的热烈的愿望。远非他们出发时一场简单的司法错误所能解释。我看到，生存困境，如同一张 巨网，人们身不由己的被卷入。一旦进入，无法前行也无法后退。出发的动因被肢解，出发的方向渐渐迷失。人们无奈跟随生活错综的冲突，作出一次又一次永远无 从解释的选择。如此循环，如此往复，直至被送往一个畸形的村庄。
作 品 简 介
影 片对高原生活、藏传佛教、寺院僧人的关注，既有意境高远的宏观架构，又有细腻生动的微观刻画。在拍摄过程中，导演以其真诚和执着第一次用镜头叩开了闭关院 那从不开放的神秘小门，亲身采访了已闭关两年甚至闭关17年以上的数位修行喇嘛。摄制组还恰逢一年一度的万人大法会盛事，期间第一次被允许近距离完整拍摄 下了天葬的全过程。全片视角独特，叙事节奏舒缓而又充满张力，影像干净唯美，镜头语言细腻饱满。
导 演 阐 述
扭 转严酷的生存环境，是无法实现的，也许人们很早以前就已经明白。于是他们发明了一种诗意地渡过今生的路径。他们把来世想象为幸福的天堂，他们以佛的法为依 归，来压制内心的骚动与不安。他们尽量若无其事的面对今世的苦与愁，他们相信当躺在天葬台上，可以安静的将身献给秃鹫的那一刻，他们的灵魂将飞向天堂。
Yunnan Multi Culture Visual Festival
Beijing New Youth Film Festival
2011 Festival International Jean Rouch