Filmmaker Miao Wang offers an intimate look at the changing face of China's biggest city as seen through the eyes of three people who drive through its streets every day. As China strives to remake itself while the old communist regime gives way to a new embrace of capitalism, the often camera-shy country prepares to open itself up on the world stage as the host of the 2008 Olympic Games. A few weeks before the games begin, Wang and his camera crew spend some time with three Beijing cab drivers, each of whom offers their own views on China's past, present and future. Bai Jiwen is old enough that he expects to retire in a few years, and has mixed feelings about China's new approach; he's happy that the quality of life has improved for many, but sees real wealth only spreading to a few, while genuine poverty, unknown in the old China, is on the rise. Wei Caixia is a former schoolteacher raising a child on her own; while her new career is hard work, she likes the opportunities it provides and is enthusiastic about China's current direction. And Zhou Yi struggles with the practicalities of capitalism -- his taxi is an old rattletrap that breaks down frequently, and he may lose his license shortly before the money making season of the Olympics begins. BEIJING TAXI received its world premiere at the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival.
SXSW 2010: Beijing Taxi Reviw: In Jia Zhangke's Unknown Pleasures, the otherwise hopeless citizens of Shanxi province's Datong momentarily freak out and celebrate the announcement that the 2008 Olympics will be hosted in Beijing, cheering around TVs on the street. You could look at Beijing Taxi as a kind of sequel, using the careers of three Beijing cabdrivers two years before the Olympics to launch into showing a wider portrait of key parts of Beijing's infrastructure - its malls, new apartment buildings, elaborate cardboard miniature scale representations of the future sprawl and so on, the kind of important functional spaces that are rarely documented. (Worth noting: the "low-cost hospital for ordinary citizens" looks exactly like the hospital in Pleasures, which tells you a lot about how standardized that is.)
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