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WORLD APART: THE FILMS OF JIA ZHANGKE

In Chinese society today there are a lot of moments where what’s going on could be called a show.

Jia Zhangke, interview with Valerie Jaffee, in Senses of Cinema, July–Sept. 2004

Milieu is everything in the assured, almost ethnographic work of Jia Zhangke, and with The World, China’s leading independent filmmaker—make that China’s leading filmmaker—emerges from the underground only to enter an officially sanctioned virtual reality. Coproduced by the state-run Shanghai Film Studio, Jia’s latest movie (which made its US debut last October at the New York Film Festival and arrives in theaters this July) is set largely within the confines of that elaborately themed environment known as Beijing World Park.

By contrast to this rigorously controlled zone, filled with more than one hundred scale models of the world’s most famous buildings, the writer-director’s three previous features framed the

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