Walking on the Wild Side
Autobiographically tinted film about the hopelessness of life in a Chinese mining town where the advance of the market economy leads to depressing lawlessness, that draws heavily on the sworn friendship of three boys.
Han Jie is growing up in the Northwest Chinese province of Shanxi. In 1992, when he is 12 years old, the area comes under the influence of the market economy. Small coal mines spring up like mushrooms. Most of the mines are private operations without official licences and pay little regard to the necessary safety measures. The streets of the town where Han spent his adolescence slowly but surely become greyer, thanks to the dust that chokes the air. The lawlessness surrounding the mines also grips the secondary school he attends. A gang of youths led by a certain Xiaosi does its everyday rounds and young Han Jie is a favourite victim. He does not dare use the knife he keeps in his pocket. It is his cousin Xiping who eventually teaches Xiaosi and his Gang of Four Stars a lesson, but then he has to flee. The harsh reality that follows places a heavy burden on their sworn friendship. Han portrays these personal experiences in his first full-length and authentic feature film. Walking on the Wild Side is about the fear of growing up and bearing responsibility. The three youths who swear to be eternally faithful to each other in his film and dream of a better future eventually have to put up with a life that does not transcend the misery of their parents' existence. (SdH)