Every June, CineVegas film festival brings a refreshing week of artistic, cultural and educational entertainment to a city replete with the vacuous and superficial.
While time ticks down to the festival’s 11th year, the Springs Preserve is filling the void with the CineVegas Green Film Series at the Springs Preserve. The series provides a nourishing and palatable taste of both nature and culture neatly packaged into a single evening activity.
On Saturday, February 7, acclaimed Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke’s Still Life will screen at the Big Springs Theater in the Springs Preserve at 7:30 p.m.
Still Life won the LA Film Critics award for Best Foreign Film and Best Cinematography and the prestigious Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival.
Soaring music and epic landscapes serve as emotive backdrops for the plot, which focuses both on two people’s separate quests to find their respective estranged spouses amidst the large-scale metamorphosis of China’s terrain.
The trailer opens with a shot of a weathered coal miner in a dirty tank top on board a crowded ferry. As the ferry glides down the Yangtze River to the 2,000-year-old town of Fengji, where he hopes to find his ex-wife who left him 16 years ago, a television on the ferry welcomes the passengers with these words:
“Welcome aboard the forest the Yangtze jetfoil. Today, the world’s eyes look towards this region again, thanks to the Three Gorges Dam. In May 2006, the city will be immersed. The water level here will rise to 156.5 meters.”
The 2,000-year-old city, a repository of history and tradition, will be submerged and irrevocably destroyed as a byproduct of the Three Gorges Dam construction, making it a highly controversial project. While it will be the largest hydroelectric power station in the world and undoubtedly a beneficial structure, the project is causing massive population displacement and drastic harm to the regional ecosystem, as well as decimating several important archaeological and cultural sites.
Meanwhile, a deceptively stoic nurse, Shen Hong, searches for her husband who left her two years ago to work in a factory in the Fengjie area.
Still Life is ironically titled because it is all about change, motion and the transmutability of life and the world. Nothing is still or permanent, including human relationships. The past surrenders to the future and the old disappears forever as the new takes shape. This is specifically addressed in regards to the globalization of China, which, director Zhang-ke points out, is destroying its rich heritage.
Masterful cinematography captures scenes of workers demolishing buildings with pickaxes, while others are exploded and razed to the ground (while others supernaturally take off into the sky like rockets), resulting in a manmade industrial wasteland that contrasts sharply with majestic mountains and the vast metallic Yangtze River.
The paths of miner Sanming and Shen Hong never cross, but they, like the nation, are confronted with the film’s overarching themes of the pain of goodbyes, the ambiguity of the future, the impossibility of complete utopia or personal happiness and the bittersweet push and pull of change.
Immediately following the film, a panel discussion will be held with local experts to talk about the issues raised in the film and what you can do to help. Confirmed panel members include Dennis McBride, former director of the Hoover Dam Museum and current Curator of Collections and Programs at the Nevada State Museum; Dr. Sue Fawn Chung, Professor of Chinese history at UNLV; and Dr. Ying Bao, Professor of Chinese cinema, modern literature, and popular culture at UNLV. Tickets are available via phone (702-822-7705) or in person at the Springs Preserve box office located at 333 S. Valley View Blvd. between U.S. 95 and Alta Drive.