Film explores urbanization's mixed bag

Updated: 2015-03-06 06:05

By MAY ZHOU in Houston(China Daily USA)

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Film explores urbanization's mixed bag

A screen shot from The Land of Many Palaces shows the large scale town center of Kangbashi of Ordos.

The relocation was not forced but rather intelligently persuaded, Smith explained. When village doctors and teachers were offered enticing relocation packages and made the decision to move, the rest followed. Only a few remained.

Most of relocated populations are elderly farmers aged 60 to 80 and young children. The younger adults had left years earlier to other big cities for better job opportunities, Smith said.

"The majority of relocated farmers we spoke to were ‘accepting' of their new situation, as they've been lifted out of quite a hard life trying to farm in an arid region," he explained.

"What you have to keep in mind is that the older generations in China are used to cultural and social forces much larger than they can comprehend steering the direction of their lives. Depending on their age, they have lived through foreign occupation, the Great Leap Forward, famine, the Cultural Revolution, the reform years, and the economic rise of China. Now it's just another huge cultural shift that's not in their control, and so they just accept it and try to make the best of it," Smith said in response to a question from the audience.

The film is done with an objective eye, neither critical nor favorable. Translation and background information are provided in subtitles.

"What we want to do is foster understanding of China's rapid change. China's urbanization involves enormously complicated issues," explained Smith.

According to Smith, the film has been screened a few times among small circles of elites in China and they are working to have the film screened there to the general public.

Originally from the UK and educated at Stanford University, Smith has worked for the China Central Academy of Fine Arts and the Chinese National Academy of Painting.

Smith's next project is about China's replica phenomenon: "I am shooting this summer, and it's about the replica of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in Hebei province, about two hours north of Beijing. It's not just the architecture they have replicated, they replicate the lifestyle too. Even though it's Chinese people living there, they dress up as cowboys and hang pictures of Ronald Reagan on the wall," said Smith.

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