Film Review: Bumming in Beijing
This paper will focus on Bumming in Beijing, which is contemporary documentary. It will also examine factors influencing the performance and consideration of lives of marginalized artists using the cinema verite style. This film opens with various introductory titles before Wu presents the five main characters. The characters include two painters, a theatre director, a photographer, and a writer. The viewers are able to recognize the reasons, which make them, chose to settle in Beijing. Job dissatisfaction was the main driver that drew them from their respective state-assigned areas as well as creative urges made them into eking a living of freelance artists’ sociological living in the urban society at its margins (Bruzzi, 2006, 65).
In order to show a side of China that has never been seen, Wu uses the cinema verite style to shoot the documentary. The camera style that has been adopted by the filmmaker is a camera placed on the shoulders with long continuous shots of different scenes around Beijing. In the documentary, a hand held camera is used as the filmmaker takes the viewer through the streets and back alleys of Beijing. The documentary also highlights the run-down apartments as he tries to probe into the unseen lives of poor artists. The reason for these continuous shots is to show the plight of each character. Each of the characters has certainly adapted to the same exceptional circumstances through freelancing in order to pay rent for the single rooms they live in. in addition, the clarity of their endeavors (artistic) is very alive their small quarters. Here, the cramped domestic spaces make up the environment in which the viewers see a number of the characters in a major part of this film even though there are distinct exceptions. This has been brought out clearly by the camera work presented by Wu in the documentary.
Major editing has been done to the film. For example, each character presented in the documentary is presented on a black background with white text. For example, in one scene Zhang Ci’s is shown lighting a fire using firewood to cook. Editing is done in order to provide information on the character. Information includes date of birth and place of residence. In addition, editing is found within scenes where the filmmaker wants to present another idea to the viewer. Another style that has been used in camera filming is self-reflexivity. Self-reflexivity does not provide very aesthetically appealing viewing experiences while many scenes in this film’s neutral stance are shot in dark and drab locations, which make minimal use of stunning architectural forms and no arguments, polemic, nor conclusions that goes a long way in typifying Beijing’s traditionally styled alleyways (hutongs) and run-down apartments. With heightened consciousness of their interviews relationship, Wu has no option other than that of using the title cards in imposing semblance of various forms of dramatic structures and it is an effort through which he partially succeeds (Nichols, 1991, 23). As the scenes and images of demonstration are somewhat readily understandable with a possible element of contextualization, there exists much, which remains past comprehension (even after a number of viewings).
However, in positioning the audience a number of the characters used are emotionally engaging, charismatic, and sufficiently interesting in justifying their long interview sections (Maurie, 1999, 78). Each of them works together with the subsequent and generally rescues the film from an overall dullness of Zhang Dali and Mou Sen. For instance, Gao Bo is portrayed as charming and mischievous which characterizes inherent communication properties of an artist struggling as both playful and innocent. In contrast, the disturbing and melancholy description of Zhang Xiaping’s inner turmoil paints a very different picture for the people attracted to such an eccentric community.
In conclusion, realism, action and the perform ability largely loom in the film ‘Bumming in Beijing’. ‘Bumming in Beijing’ adopts a prerogative mode for the intensive use of social realism in the strategic purposes of offering sustained perspectives that are non-existent at the time in censored mainstream forms of media. In my view, the maker’s ideas in this film are rather difficult to grasp all the themes at once and even harder to interpret them in the absence of proper period considerations through which they were produced. Issuing appreciation to the Tiananmen Square Massacre is relatively the pivotal event of this film. At this point, the viewer is able to decode the work of various relatively opaque scenes. I find over-reliance on Participatory video maximizes by the Verite filmmaker, Wu on talking heads be to a lead reason of avoiding ‘Bumming in Beijing’.
In my opinion, the documentary is a revelation that has used the cinema verite style effectively. From, the documentary it is evident that the idea of the characters in the documentary having better trends in life is considerably slim and at the end, they continue experiencing profound tensions especially between fulfillment and aspiration (Kilborn & Izod, 2000, 12). It clearly brings out the poor living conditions in Beijing. For example, the interview with Zhang Ci is conducted right outside her rundown apartment, which is poorly maintained. Based on information from this interview (which form a trend in hierarchical discourse), the viewer is able to comprehensively understand the discrepancies that are experienced between truth and reference and about how the economy of the country is performing as well as the actual lives on a daily basis without proscenium arch.
Aitken Ian, Encyclopedia of Documentary Film. (New York: Routledge, 2006) 45.
Bruzzi, S. New documentary. (New York: Routledge, 2006) 65
Kilborn, R. & Izod, J. From Grierson to the docu-soap: breaking the boundaries. (Luton: University of Luton Press, 2000) 12
Linda, Hutcheon A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. 1984; rpt with new introduction. (Champaign and Urbana: U of Illinois Press: 2001) 56
Maurie, Alioff, Camera eye: Peter Wintonick's Cinema verite: defining the moment, TAKE ONE, Dec-Feb, 1999. 78. Retrived on 25th September 2012 from
Nichols, B. Representing reality: issues and concepts in documentarBloomington. (Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1991) 23
Saunders, Dave. Direct Cinema: Observational Documentary and the Politics of the Sixties. London: Wallflower Press, 2007.