China Beat Archive


Date of this Version


Document Type



October 20, 2010 in The China Beat


Copyright 2010. Used by permission.


In his new film I Wish I Knew, a documentary on Shanghai, Jia Zhangke recreates once again, after a detour of sorts with Useless and24 City, that wonderful tension between the biographical and the historical, the primal impetus of his art, that had made Platform,The World, and Still Life, his best films, so memorable. Jia is different from all other well-known mainland Chinese directors, be they of the 5th or 6th generation — his is a singular sensibility that is aware of but not chained to the social-political, which to him are meaningful only to the extent that they are constraints to be transcended and transformed. In an environment of habitual politicization and cognitive rigidity, the sensibility espoused in Jia’s films is liberating.