2010 / 118 Minutes / In Mandarin with English Subtitles
A film by: Jia Zhange Ke
Cast: Zhao Tao, Lim Giong
Shanghai has hosted all kinds of people – revolutionaries, capitalists, politicians, soldiers, artists, and gangsters. Shanghai has also hosted revolutions, assassinations, love stories.
After the Chinese Communists’ victory in 1949, thousands of Shanghaiers left for Hong Kong and Taiwan. To leave meant being separated from home for thirty years; to stay meant suffering through the Cultural Revolution and China’s other political disasters.
Eighteen people from these three cities - Shanghai, Taipei and Hong Kong - recall their lives in Shanghai. Their personal experiences, like eighteen chapters of a novel, tell stories of Shanghai lives from the 1930s to 2010.
An eternally wandering soul returns to Shanghai and, walking along the banks of the Huangpu River, awakens to all the changes the city has undergone.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Jia Zhang-Ke was born in 1970 in Fenyang, Shanxi Province of China. He was graduated from Beijing Film Academy and made his first feature film Xiao Wu in 1998. He is now settled in Beijing and actively involved in filmmaking over China. His Still Life won the Golden Lion Award (Best Film) of 63rd Venice International Film Festival in 2006.
After examining China’s historic changes through my films for over a decade, I’ve developed a growing interest in history. It has dawned on me that the causes of almost all of the problems facing contemporary China can be found taking shape in the depths of its history.
In mainland China as well as in Taiwan, the true nature of many events in China’s modern history has long been hidden, blocked from view by those in power. Like an orphan anxious to learn the truth about where he comes from, I felt an urgency to learn just what lies behind the familiar official historical narratives. What in fact have individuals really experienced?
So I came to Shanghai with my movie camera and traced the footsteps of Shanghaiers who left this city for Taiwan and Hong Kong. Shanghai is closely tied to the lives of almost every important historic figure in the modern history of China. And events of national significance in the life of the city also destined Shanghaiers for lives of painful, life-long separation.
I hope that I Wish I Knew can transcend party politics (whether it be the Communist Party of China or Taiwan’s Nationalist KMT) and directly touch the sufferings of the Chinese people.
A complicated lexicon of historical terms is inscribed on Shanghai’s history: from «colony» in the 19th century to «revolutionary» in the 20th; from 1949’s «liberation» through the «cultural revolution» of 1966 to 1978’s «reform» and Pudong’s «opening up» in 1990.
What I care about, however, is what lies behind these abstract terms: the individuals buffeted by politics, and details of their lives forgotten by time.
When I sat face-to-face with characters in my film, and listened to them talk ever so calmly about the hair-raising events in their pasts, I suddenly realized what it was that I captured with my camera: - “a dream of freedom” twinkling in their eyes.
This moved me to tears.
Toronto International Film Festival
Wednesday September 15 @ 9:45PM - SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4
Friday September 17 @ 5:00PM - JACKMAN HALL - AGO
Vancouver International Film Festival: Buy Tix Online!
Tue, Oct 5th 9:00pm - Empire Granville 7 Th 3
Wed, Oct 6th 11:40am - Empire Granville 7 Th 3
Regina Public Library: Nov 4 - 7, 2010
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Toronto: Nov 11 - 25, 2010
Daily: 1pm, 4pm and 6:45p
Carlton Cinema, Toronto: Nov 19 - 25, 2010
Daily at 1:40, 4:20, 6:55, 9:25
Bloor Cinema, Toronto: Dec 12 - 14
"Shanghai is the perfect setting for this saga, being the nexus of China’s interface with the outside world. The film, commissioned for the city’s 2010 World’s Fair, also travels to Hong Kong and Taipei to put these recollections in visual context. The sure-handed director also breaks the verbal flow with beautifully shot passages of everyday life, with a lovely, white-shirted woman (Zhao Tao) drifting unseen through the bustle—a ghostly reminder of past lives asking not to be forgotten."
- Georgia Straight
4 Stars! "With his 2008 part-documentary 24 City, the director took that style into a new direction of oral history, which he has further perfected in I Wish I Knew, making this kind of careful storytelling all his own. However, what’s most striking aren’t the actual stories or Jia’s masterful filmmaking, the subtle sound collages, the perfectly shot street footage, or his deliberate pacing. Instead, it’s simply the film’s rarest of rare qualities – its consistent, underlying maturity."
- Globe and Mail
4 Stars! "Tracking some 160 years of change and upheaval – and paying special attention to the damage wrought by Mao’s Cultural Revolution – Jia weaves archival images and interviews with witnesses into an involving tapestry, breaking up the action with shots of long-time muse Zhao Tao wandering through the city as it exists now."
- Now Magazine
5 Stars! And while certain references and anecdotes in the film will inevitably have greater resonance with Chinese viewers than Western viewers, he stresses the idea that much of the history here is unknown to them, too. “It’s very much the same experience for them as it is for an outsider,” he says. “There is so much pressure to discourage discussions of political and critical significance. So that’s why it’s important to show images of things that are historically and politically ambivalent and ambiguous — to uncover certain truths.”
- Eye Weekly
"A documentary/drama mix that focuses on 18 people, I Wish I Knew tells the recent history of the city through the lives of those whose fate is connected to Shanghai's. As various people tell their stories, archival footage attests to the extraordinary growth (much of it seemingly unfortunate) that has taken place in the last generation."
- Toronto Sun
"Following the footsteps of 24 CITY, I WISH I KNEW is director Jia’s documentary or part-documentary of the Chinese city of Shanghai told from the points of view of different people of ages and walks of life."
- Cinema Eye
"After a trip around the festival circuit (including Cannes and TIFF), Jia Zhang-Ke's lengthy follow up to 2008's 24 City begins a limited run at the Lightbox. A cinematic love letter to Shanghai that was originally commissioned as part of the 2010 World Expo, Zhang-Ke's film explores the historical evolution of the city through the testimonies of its citizens - spanning from the beginning of the twentieth century through to the present day."
"Jia Zhang-ke's documentary on Shanghai, commissioned for this year's World Expo there, employs interviews and painterly location shooting to tell a story of how China's most populous city was shaped, over the past 70 years, by a series of historical traumas, including the Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese Civil War and the Cultural Revolution. Similar in its use of oral history to Jia's last film, 24 City, it gains momentum, and its appeal to film buffs, in the second half during a detour that deals with films set in Shanghai and takes us to exile communities in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Throughout, actress Zhao Tao wanders through the urban landscape as a representative of the city's meandering soul. L.L."
- Globe and Mail
"Of Time and the City - Jia Zhangke's I Wish I Knew, a remembrance of Shanghai past"
- Moving Image Source by Shelly Kraicer
4 Stars! "China’s pre-eminent young director presents another in his ongoing series of psychogeographically inclined works. This time, the location of choice is Shanghai, which is described by various residents as well as many who had to leave the city behind during the revolution. It’s only fitting that Jia’s film also reflects on the place’s cinematic history, the director’s own vivid images of Shanghai becoming interwoven with its earlier appearances on celluloid. Pensive shots of Jia’s regular leading lady Zhao Tao bracket the nostalgic reveries of his many fascinating subjects."
- Eye Weekly
"The long term TIFF’s “most favorite” Chinese film maker Jia Zhangke has brought his “I Wish I Knew” to Toronto for its north American premiere. Jia was honored by TIFF as “one of the youngest masters of cinema” early this year.In his newest feature documentary production commissioned to commemorate the 2010 World Expo, Jia was trying to portray a chapter of modern Chinese history through interviews and scenic views of Shanghai, the largest city in China and Far East, in its continuous evolution."
- Asian Wave
"Commissioned by the Chinese government for the 2010 Shanghai World's Fair, Jia (The World) Zhang-ke's rich documentary follows two tracks: one through a city whose rich, tortured history is receding behind the upward surge of modernization, the other through the memories of 11 subjects whose lives were formed there. An absorbingly intelligent work."
"Once-banned, Jia Zhangke seeks wider audience in China"
- Yahoo News
4 Stars! "Jia's singular exploration of Shanghai artfully distills the reminiscences of 18 fascinating people, giving us a sense of their complex lives in just a few poetic minutes of screen time. Their personal testimony vividly evokes the waves of history that washed over this mythic city in the 20th century."
- Now Magazine
"Zhangke Jia, who has won numerous awards at the TIFF and was honored as "one of the youngest masters of cinema" earlier this year, brought his documentary I Wish I Knew to the premier North American film festival. Jia's newest feature documentary vividly portrays a chapter of the vast development of Shanghai in China's recent history to commemorate the 2010 Shanghai World Expo."
- Digital Journal
While many gather to watch the next big blockbuster to hit the screens, there are others who seek out the more alternative options to mainstream. FilmsWeLike, the independent distribution company headed by filmmaker Ron Mann, recently announced that the 2010 Palm d’Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat); I Wish I Knew (Hai Shang Chuan Qi) - the new film from master Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-Ke; and The Light Thief (Svet-Aki) a delightful gem from Kyrgyzstan’s Aktan Arym Kubat will be showcased at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
- Digital Journal
"Commissioned to commemorate the 2010 World Expo, this documentary on Shanghai portrays a chapter of modern Chinese history through interviews and scenic views of a city in continuous evolution. I Wish I Knew is directed by one of the youngest masters of cinema, Jia Zhang-ke."
"Zhangke Jia, who has won numerous awards at the TIFF and was honored as "one of the youngest masters of cinema" earlier this year, brought his documentary I Wish I Knew to the premier North American film festival. Jia's newest feature documentary vividly portrays a chapter of the vast development of Shanghai in China's recent history to commemorate the 2010 Shanghai World Expo"
- Blog Dance