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Sad tales of trapped youth

THREE bizarre, funny and sad stories of three guys in a small town are interwoven in a new independent film "Youth" by Geng Jun to be screened this weekend, writes Yao Minji.

Thirty-three-year-old Geng Jun was a typical "Beijing floater" or bei piao - bei for Beijing and piao for floating.

They are the hopeful ones who go to Beijing to chase their dreams, especially artistic dreams, to become writers, painters, directors, actors, and so on. Most of them end up struggling to survive.

The Heilongjiang Province native has worked many jobs in many places, including hotels, magazines and advertising companies.

Unlike other "Beijing floaters" who just continue to float, Geng wove his experience and feelings into the independent feature film "Barbecue" in 2004, after shooting a few short films.

"The title is the state of the three protagonists in the film. They are 'barbecued' under the fire from all kinds of places - money, family, love, society," says Geng who started writing the script after he read a simple news story.

It was about two migrant workers in Beijing who kidnapped a prostitute and held her hostage. They started quarreling as no one wanted to pay to rescue her. Then one man fell in love with the woman and together they went to the police.

Geng adapted the basic storyline and used his own experience and emotions as a northeastern Chinese working in Beijing. He shot the film in a tiny room in Beijing suburb, using non-professional actor friends. The budget was only 5,000 yuan (US$530) - his savings from work.

It turned out to be a darkly refreshing comedy with Geng's unique satire and sense of humor. Though it was about a very unusual crime, the audience, especially "Beijing floaters," identified with the protagonists. They shared their feelings of homesickness, friendship, pride, desire for money, for love, for attention and status.

"Barbecue" was selected to be shown at various film festivals, including renowned independent film festivals like the Nantes Film Festival Three Continents in France. Although Geng did not win an award, his work was recognized and he gained the assurance and resources to undertake his next film, "Youth."

Geng recently completed the film and held a few screenings in Beijing universities and galleries. He will bring the 120-minute feature to Shanghai for five screenings and discussions over the weekend.

Like "Barbecue," "Youth" also reflects some aspects of Geng's life. He says the film "is inspired by my hometown, a small town in Heilongjiang Province that I visit back once a year."

Each time he goes back to Hegang, he finds that people have departed for other cities or died. Some died in accidents, died for absurd reasons or just went missing.

"So I'm just telling their (people in my hometown) stories through moving images," says Geng.

Hence, "Youth" contains three seemingly absurd stories, ironically funny and all with sad endings.

One guy threatens to commit suicide to protest against his girlfriend's parents, who force her to break up with him because he is poor. Threats don't work. He kills himself, leaving his little brother to find the empty house where his girlfriend's family used to live.

The second guy deeply values friendship and gets hit by gangsters while helping a friend. The friend runs away and he is severely injured, in a persistent vegetative state. The third guy changes his job from mining to working on construction sites because his girlfriend is worried about the dangers of mining. He falls to death from a tall building, just a few days after starting his new job.

Geng uses the images of horses, a symbol of freedom, but instead of running on a wide field, these horses are locked in cages and killed in factories.

"And youth are the same. We were supposed to be as passionate as the sun at eight or night o'clock in the morning. But changes in the environment sap our passion and energy," says Geng.

He says it's impossible to escape because "one is sure to confront another similar problem even if he runs away. And that is the saddest part for youth."

Date: February 21, 2pm

Address: 909 Cafe, 101, Bldg 1, 909 Tianyaoqiao Rd

Tel: 5412-0991

Date: February 21, 7pm

Address: 411, Bldg 11, 696 Weihai Rd

Tel: 6255-2600

Date: February 22, 1:30pm

Address: 3/F, 574 Quyang Rd

Tel: 1336-1899-160

Date: February 22, 7pm

Address: CANART, 1A, Bldg 4, 727 Dingxi Rd

Tel: 5230-7235

Date: February 27, 8pm

Address: 691 Jiujiang Rd

Tel: 6352-5612


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Artist: V.ATitle: Beijing 2Genre: Down-tempo/loungeIt develops more about electronic/lounge music integrating Beijing's local music scene.

Including Morcheeba, Club Des Belugas, Pit Baumgartner, Bardo State, among others.

High Note RecordsAddress: 455 Fahuazhen RdTel: 5259-9922

Live Music

People Under the Stairs

The LA-based underground heavyweights are coming to Shanghai. Renowned for their thrilling live shows, dub-influenced production and tight vocals, the two men have earned respect in the indie hip-hop world, though not widely recognized.

Date: February 20, 9pm

Venue: Shelter, 5 Yongfu Rd

Tickets: 60 yuan

Screening of Woodstock Rock

For any rock fans, Woodstock not only represents the rock festival every five years, but also the spirit carried through years. It all started in 1969, when the first festival's theme was about peace. The repertoire included all the names that became legendary now - Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Joan Baez, etc.

Date: February 21, 25, 8pm

Venue: 021 Bar, 1436 Jungong Rd

Tel: 1391-8015-880

Tickets: 60 yuan

A-Z Live

A-Z is an experimental project, with Asiaeyes and Zhuoling from two distinctive local bands. The melting of the two musical genres and ideas generates a refreshing chemistry.

Date: February 21, 9pm

Venue: Yuyintang, 1731 Yan'an Rd W.

Tel: 5237-8662

Tickets: 30 yuan


Short Films

Two short films by two local independent film directors depict their distinctive perspectives on the struggles of young adults in Shanghai. They mature through problems, struggle with the reality and compromise for better.

Date: February 20, 7pm

Venue: 909 Cafe, 101, Bldg 1, 909 Tianyaoqiao Rd

Tel: 5412-0991


The film salon will screen the 50-minute documentary about women and their relationships with their breasts. Women only.

Date: February 21, 28, 7:30pm

Venue: Bldg 42, 169 Changle Rd

Tel: 6467-1258 (call to reserve)


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