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  All materials © 1999 
  Beijing Scene


Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 26, September 17 - 23

Not One Less

China's best-known director won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, while a compatriot was honored for a movie that has been censored by the Beijing authorities.

Zhang Yimou, who put Chinese cinema on the map with Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern and To Live, scooped the Golden Lion award for best film for his eloquent tale of a rural village school, Not One Less.

Zhang, the first Chinese director to be nominated for an Oscar, said it was
a movie he had wanted to make for years. "I made this film with my heart, and I hope the future generations can have a better life," he told a news conference after the awards ceremony.

Zhang Yuan won a new award-the special prize for best director-for Seventeen Years, a searing tale of a reunion between a woman jailed for 17 years for killing her stepsister, and her family.

The movie, which takes a camera inside a Chinese prison for the first time, was co-financed by Italy's Fabrica Cinema, a unit of fashion group Benetton. Zhang Yuan complained that the Chinese authorities, who censored his film and refused to recognize it officially, had intended only one filmmaker-Zhang Yimou-to be represented at the festival.

"It is quite rare for two Chinese films to win prizes at the same festival," he said. "This prize is an incentive for all new Chinese cinema." Zhang Yuan said his biggest desire was to be able to make "many films in China," and that the award would promote his effort to securing distribution at home, adding he had received five major U.S. distribution proposals.

Higher Education

In Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, there are several nightclubs which have opened offering "high education" sanpei or 'three accompaniment' girls. Journalists investigating this story were shocked to find that many of these highly educated club girls gave very direct responses to their questions. The average age of these girls was 18 - 25 and many were university graduates.

When asked why they worked as entertainment girls, they answered for both economic and personal reasons. The girls explained that their income was commensurate with their education qualifications. For instance, a poorly educated girl could only receive ?00-200 each night for accompanying customers in eating, drinking and merry-making; while a girl with a higher education could receive as much as ?00-400 a night for the same services. 

When interviewed by journalists, a Ms. Zhu explained, "I can make the same amount of money here in two days of work that I can make for one month's work outside doing a proper office job. My university degree can earn a much higher rate in a nightclub than if I work in an office." 

- Southern Weekend

Faith in the Party

In Wanzhou District, Chongqing Municipality, a construction project contractor named Ying had just completed a construction project and wanted to collect the outstanding fees owed. He went to the project manager named Zhou Yongming asking him to pay the amount outstanding.

Zhou refused to pay Ying. So Ying offered Zhou a kickback of ?0,000 if he paid back the amount owed. Zhou said, "I cannot do that!" Zhou was afraid to pay the funds and betray his company for a kickback. Ying said, "Don't worry. I am a Communist Party member. I swear on the guarantee of the Party that this is okay!" Zhou responded, "Oh. If you are a Party member then I can trust you." So he gave the money and got the kickback. The story was revealed after both were arrested and confessed.

- Beijing Evening News

False Charity

Shen Xingeng of Yangzhou City in Jiangsu Province was a worker from a poor family. One afternoon recently, the leader of the local neighborhood committee brought a cart full of coal for heating and fresh rice to the home of poor worker Shen. The leader announced: "We are here to send warmth to your home."

To emphasize the goodness of this deed in helping the poor, this neighborhood leader and other key members of the neighborhood committee busily unloaded the coal stacking it in Shen's home, following which they took the fresh rice and filled poor Shen's empty rice barrel. All the while, there was a video team, busying filming the good works of this neighborhood committee to make a propaganda film. When the film crew finished their video work, the neighborhood leader gave the order and all members of this good-deed-doing neighborhood committee collected the coal back, and then emptied poor Shen's rice barrel returning the rice into a bag on the cart. They then took the cart away leaving Shen Xingeng as poor as before. "It was all just a show!" poor Shen lamented.

- Southern Weekend

Revolution For Sale

The sacred sites of China's revolution have become totally commercialized. "There is no feeling of seriousness at all," journalists write.

Revolutionary sites such as Yan'an have become covered with advertisements. In the very hall where Mao Zedong convened the 7th Party Congress-on each side of the podium from which Mao lectured on socialism-there are now two color televisions running continual advertisements.

The famous pagoda in Yan'an (seen in the backdrop of many vintage photos of Mao and Zhu De) now has a 5-6 meter advertisement in front of the pagoda, so you cannot see it anymore. 

Many tourists-especially devout Party members-who have traveled long and far on pilgrimages to these sacred historic sites, are offended by this overt commercial exploitation of China's revolution.

- Beijing Daily


At the Financial Academy in Shandong Province, students are demonstrating their business skills in new and creative ways. Many agents have emerged providing services. The agencies are called "express feeling service companies." Most of these companies are opened by students from the academy.

Mr. Ji Lingwang was interviewed by journalists and explained that his service involves "Representing clients to obtain love and even refuse or get rid of lovers." He added that "If you are unhappy we can even provide a room where you can yell, scream and throw a temper tantrum. You can even break all the things in the room!"
Mr. Ji explained, "Our service fee is relatively low" adding that "if you want to get rid of your lover we only charge ?. However if you want to release your anger and break things, we charge ?." These services are extremely popular and these companies are prospering!

- Beijing Daily

Public Security Online
How can you report that your car has been stolen? Where do you go for "official seal chopping" and what files do you need when you plan to go abroad? To answer these questions, you have to check at the local public security bureau and the formalities are often very time consuming. Beijing Public Security has established a website at www.bjgaj.gov.cn to facilitate formalities for residents as well make the government's work available for public scrutiny. Moreover, government work procedures are published and a more transparent working style is being promoted.

- Beijing Youth Daily

Mozart's Magic Flute

Acclaimed Chinese film director Zhang Yimou says he plans a production of the Mozart opera The Magic Flute after the success of last summer's staging of Puccini's Turandot.

Zhang told a news conference at the Venice film festival that the new work would be put on at a German opera house, but he did not yet know when or where. He said he also was working on the script of a new film, which he hoped to begin shooting before the end of the year. "It has an urban plot," he said, speaking in Mandarin through an interpreter.

Zhang, who has angered Chinese authorities with some of his films in the past and had some of his work banned, said he intended to continue making films at home now.

"I have no desire for the moment to film abroad. I'm very familiar with my country and not familiar with abroad. So I want to continue making films in China." 


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