Everybody has the same idea here in China, I’m talking specifically about ex-pats or westerners living and working in China. Film directors, writers or anybody vaguely connected to the arts. In many ways, this is the land to have one brilliant idea and have everybody else copy it, if it works then why change it? But one of the main reasons why nearly every brilliant idea you come up with for a film or a documentary subject or even a novel is old the moment you’ve thought of it, is because most ex-pats have a very very shared experience here. Just when you thought that the documentary about everyday life’s of Beijing people would be something people would want to see … you hear about the amateur video movie maker that’s been doing that for the last 5 years, and he’s become a celebrity in the process. Just when you thought that making a movie about modern Beijing girls and their Gucci bags was an original idea – you see the bookshelf’s lined with such novels, mostly written by either ex-pat women or ABC’s (American Born Chinese). There’s so many bad books going around, bad documentary’s – all made by ex-pats, western, abc’s etc… one or two ideas and then everybody writes or directs that defining work about “the real china”. Bullshit all of it. I’ve had my fair share of that one idea – like documenting the “real” life of towns and villages across the Great Wall. Or doing a portrait of Beijing through a Taxi Driver or some other typical ignorant and dumb person. Most of these ideas, most of these stories, most of these western portraits all share one thing in common, a smug – I know better than you – condescending tone and attitude of a writing style. It’s a huge country, with billions of people and many faces… why do the ex-pat writers try and cover all those voices in their one China book? I have no idea – it is of course one of the reasons why most authors in the world have only written one book, most directors have only directed one movie. You try and put all your ideas, all your life, all your opinions into that one piece. For your second work, you’ve got nothing left.
For my China movie or China novel or China whatever I choose to do… because, despite my misgivings, I like the rest of them, really need to write something down, to either write or shoot something about something here in China.
I think I’ll stick with what I know best, Scandinavians. I don’t really know or care about the ex-pat community that I belong to here in Beijing, so that does not interest me. But who says you can’t make a bleak, dark, Bergman drama in Beijing? It’s what we do best and it’s what I will stick to for now. So watch out for another Scandinavian movie trying to be Bergman, but this time it’s set in Beijing.