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Still Life, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2006, is an empathetic portrait of those left behind by a modernizing society and, as in director Jia Zhang-ke’s earlier films (Platform, Unknown Pleasures, The World), it is a unique hybrid of documentary and fiction.
In Still Life, great changes have come to the town of Fengjie due to the construction of the Three Gorges hydro project: Countless families that had lived there for many generations have had to relocate to other cities. Fengjie’s old town, which has a 2000- year history, has been torn down and submerged forever, but its new neighborhood hasn’t been finished yet. There are still things that need to be salvaged and yet there are also things that must be left behind. In Still Life, such life-changing choices face both Sanming, a miner traveling to Fengjie in search of his ex-wife of sixteen years, and Shen Hong, a nurse who has come to Fengjie to look for her husband who she hasn’t seen in two years. Both Sanming and Shen will find who they’re looking for, but in the process they too will have to decide what is worth salvaging in their lives and what they need to let go of.