Directed by Zhang Ke Jia
Written by Yongming Zhai & Zhang Ke Jia
24 City is an oddity. I was dictated this little film for this month’s Movie Dictator Club. I am very gracious to oldkid for the dictation. However, like what discussion has been going on in the Filmspot FYC threads about Alamar, a film I love, this particular film is not a documentary. It may seem like one in its format, but at the end of the day, actors were hired to conduct these interviews. So, even if everything here that is presented is in fact, and is based on truth, which it appears it is, the film cannot be a documentary. With the technical discussion out of the way after disqualifying the film as a documentary, now I want to move on to the actual film and my response to it. 24 City sits down with numerous people with the idea that their reminiscence of Factory 420, which is being vacated in favor of new housing developments, will create a powerful, moving, and interesting narrative about these average Joe’s in China.
The problem I had with the film is that I found it to be inconsistent. There are moments of sheer brilliance in this film and some of the stories that the interviewees tell are heartbreaking, funny and extremely entertaining and interesting. However, at other times they are boring and tedious and as such I can say I was never fully involved with the film, which may just be a personal thing as I never felt connected to these people or their dilemma of the closing of a factory which has been a part of their lives for so many years. Because of this issue, I was taken out of the film far too many times and never felt that what I saw was a complete narrative that would make me compelled to care. That statement seems harsh given the circumstances of the basically true story being told, and I admit that the language barrier has some to do with my qualms, as reading a somewhat boring film is certainly less engaging than listening to one if you catch my drift.
The film is beautifully rendered and features thoughtful filmmaking which has me hopeful of checking out Zhang Ke Jia’s other works. The compositions of the film make it feel like a slide show of beautiful photographs, as the camera does not move much and the editing allows the viewer to dwell on either a person or a landscape long enough to take it in, almost as in a simple photograph. At the end of the day I didn’t hate it, and am able to see the greatness in its concept and direction, but it is simply one of those cases where it didn’t click with me. I can appreciate the art, but also recognize that there are plenty other films out there that I would much prefer to 24 City.