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Back to the future in Expo movies

THE six-month World Expo 2010 will be a vast cinema for hundreds of offerings from around the world, and the event itself and the city of Shanghai are the subjects of three major films.

Two of them have already been shot - one of them will be released next month - and shooting has begun on a third.

Two years ago veteran director Zhou Yaping began filming the official 80-minute Expo documentary "City Lights," which will be screened later this year in the Expo Culture Center and on China Central Television.

The film, selected from 4,000 minutes of video material, presents the expectations of people in Shanghai, elsewhere in China and around the world for World Expo 2010.

It chronicles the preparations for the Expo Shanghai despite the global economic slowdown.

Linked to the Expo theme "Better City, Better Life," it depicts diversity and dynamism and explores urban issues and the relationship between residents and their cities, people and nature.

Filming took place in Beijing, Lhasa (Tibet Autonomous Region), Suzhou (Jiangsu Province), Hamburg (Germany), Oslo (Norway) and Casablanca (Morocco).

It depicts many ordinary people's aspirations for the world's fair, including a father and son who were relocated from the Expo site to a new apartment, retired women who promote qipao fashion and young Expo volunteers.

Meanwhile, filming has begun on "Shanghai, 2010," the second official film on the Expo to be released in cinemas next year.

Unlike "City Lights" that focuses on preparations and aspirations, this will provide a running account of the Expo's six months of operation and present the grand scene in detail.

The film will be 159 minutes in length, marking the 159-year history of the World Expo.

Another highly anticipated film is award-winning film maker Jia Zhangke's latest offering "I Wish I Knew," to be released in cinemas in late June.

The two-hour documentary has been selected for the Special Outlook section of this year's 63rd Cannes Film Festival.

The film condenses Jia's interviews with 100 people who have a deep affinity with Shanghai, including the daughter of Du Yuesheng (the underworld "godfather" of Shanghai in the 1930s); Shanghai-born artist Chen Danqing; famous post-1980s generation race-car driver and best-selling author Han Han; and Taiwan film maker Hou Hsiao-hsien whose many films used Shanghai as the backdrop.

"Each one's narration and special memories about the city are like a chapter of a novel, which vividly portrays the city's unique culture and charms from different angles," director Jia says.

"The film's title is from a nostalgic song. I want to express that no matter how fast economic development takes place in the city, its own lifestyle and characteristics won't change," he adds.

Almost all of Jia's movies star actress Zhao Tao. This time she has a key, nonspeaking role. Followed by Jia's lens, she walks about the city as a "fairy witness" to the city's changes in fortune. Familiar old Shanghai songs have been revised and updated to create both a nostalgic and fashionable ambience.

Born in 1970 in Shanxi Province, Jia made art-house movies that have received significant acclaim. His "Still Life" - about a man and woman who travel to a village near the Three Gorges in Chongqing seeking their long-lost spouses - won the Golden Lion at the 2006 Venice Film Festival.

"People are the soul of a city as none of the city's achievement would have been possible without them," says Jia. "Shanghai is really a fascinating city."

In November, the film's documentary series version, including all 100 interviews, will be screened on Shanghai TV channels.

Pavilions showing films include: China, Shanghai, Beijing, Liaoning, Jilin, Tianjin, Hebei, Zhejiang, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan and Pakistan.

China Pavilion

The China Pavilion will screen an eight-minute film by award-winning director Lu Chuan, who is known for his films "Kekexili: Mountain Patrol" and "City of Life and Death." The film depicts China's unprecedented urbanization in the past 30 years in a poetic style.

Saudi Arabia Pavilion

The highlight is the panoramic theater with the world's largest curved screen covering 1,600 square meters. Visitors standing on a moving belt - like a flying carpet - to watch a 15-minute special-effects movie that makes them feel as if they were flying over the country's deserts and cities.

The feeling is thrilling, and sometimes a bit vertiginous, and visitors need to hold on the railings to steady themselves at times.

The film shows desert, oases, city scenes and people of all walks of life, as well as outer space and Earth itself.

The film is projected and controlled by 25 supercomputers, each equivalent to 100 ordinary computers, and these create the exhilarating special zooming effects.

United Arab Emirates Pavilion

The UAE pavilion features a screen that moves up and down and changes between a theater screen and stage.

The movie tells the history of the UAE, before the discovery of oil and afterward. An animated boy and girl lead visitors through the old days when divers collected pearls form the sea to modern times and the world's tallest tower, Burj Khalifa, luxury hotels and the Palm Islands project.

Shanghai Pavilion

The multi-sensory film, "Shanghai Forever," includes movement and smells and takes viewers back to the early days of the city.

Sixty viewers at a time sit in a moveable ship-like platform in a circular-screen theater. As the platform rotates and sways, the audience feels what it was like to sit in a rocking fishing boat, a rickshaw and a trolley in the early 1900s. They also get the feel of riding buses and the Metro.

A seven-minute film takes viewers back to the old Bund of the 1930s and popular commercial streets at the beginning of the reform and opening-up in the 1980s. It also takes them to present-day Lujiazui financial center as well as a future city that is in balance with nature and surrounded by forest.

Typical smells of different eras - smells of perfume in the Paramount dance hall in the 1930s - add to the sensory experience.

Acrobats hurtle above in a future city, and there's also a submarine metropolis.

Visitors will be allowed to enter the theater every 15 minutes.

Pavilions showing films include: the United Nations, the World Meteorological Organization, Urban Planet, Brunei, Singapore, Australia, Thailand, the Philippines and New Zealand.

World Meteorological Organization Pavilion

The 4-D theater of the World Meteorological Organization Pavilion screens a film showing magic natural and weather scenes such as "rainbows in mist."

Australia Pavilion

The Australia Pavilion screens a spectacular short documentary named "Sisters" on large-scale, high-tech diamond-shaped screens. Highlighting the people-to-people links between Australia and China, the film tells the stories of 21 Australian and Chinese women whose work is making a difference in fields of science and the environment.

Pavilions showing films include: the United States, Ecuador, Bolivia, Mexico, Spain, Algeria, Cyprus, Tanzania, Romania, France, Tunisia, Egypt, Portugal, Switzerland, Monaco, Turkey, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Norway.

USA Pavilion

The USA Pavilion shows films starring Americans, including President Barack Obama and basketball player Kobe Bryant, greeting viewers in Chinese and showcasing imagination and perseverance in preserving the earth and improving community.

Spain Pavilion

Veteran Spanish film maker Basilio Martin Patino presents a seven-minute film "Cities," which describes the recent development of Spanish cities and the exodus from the countryside, like China mass migration into urban areas. It paints a portrait with dozens of Spanish families shown on five giant screens.

Monaco Pavilion

The Monaco Pavilion has a real 250-seat cinema screening "Monaco, A Rock for Eternity" on an HD screen. The six-minute animation takes visitors back in time, from the very first signs of life on earth to the present day.

Pavilions showing films include: Shanghai Corporate Joint Pavilion, Japanese Industry, Oil, China Railway Pavilion, Coca-Cola, State Grid Pavilion, Cisco, Aurora and Space Home Pavilion

Corporate Joint Pavilion

Famous Chinese actress and director Xu Jinglei stars as the "butterfly professor" in an eight-minute fantasy film to be shown at a 360-degree panoramic theater at the Shanghai Corporate Joint Pavilion. Xu takes visitors on a dream-like interactive journey in pursuit of a city dream and a better future.

Cisco Pavilion

The Cisco Pavilion shows an experimental film about an ordinary Shanghai family in 2020 facing new challenges. Innovative technology enhances communication, transport and learning in "Smart + Connected Life."

Aurora Pavilion

The Aurora Pavilion screens a 3-D movie based on the Chinese fairytale about the "Goddess of Sky-patching."

In this legend, Goddess Nuwa creates the world in seven days, then uses the soil to mold a clay child and give him/her life.

Pavilions showing films include: Pavilion of the Future, SAIC-GM, and Urban Best Practices Pavilion exhibits for Macau, Xi'an and Madrid.

Pavilion of the Future

The Pavilion of the Future offers several movies. The "Dream of Yesterday" section screens sci-fi films about the future on a gigantic screen.

The "Multiple Possibilities" section shows an animated film on a 36-meter-high screen. Both films address technological advancement.

SAIC-GM Pavilion

The SAIC-GM Pavilion screens the movie "2030, Go!" on its 4K HD cinema. It's about automobiles over 100 years and how the advanced vehicles of 2030 will improve lives.


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