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SXSW '10 | Miao Wang Captures City Life in "Beijing Taxi"

By Indiewire | Indiewire March 12, 2010 at 5:35AM

Director Miao Wang's "Beijing Taxi" is a feature length documentary that "vividly portrays Beijing undergoing a profound transformational arch. Through a humanistic lens, the intimate lives of three taxi drivers connect a morphing city confronted with modern issues and changing values. With diverse imagery combined with a contemporary score rich in atmosphere, we experience a visceral sense of the common citizensÕ persistent attempts to grasp the elusive. Candid and perceptive in its filming approach and highly cinematic in style, 'Beijing Taxi' takes us on a lyrical journey into fragments of a society riding the bumpy roads to modernization. Though the destination is unknown, they continue to forge ahead." [Synopsis courtesy of SXSW]
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Director Miao Wang's "Beijing Taxi" is a feature length documentary that "vividly portrays Beijing undergoing a profound transformational arch. Through a humanistic lens, the intimate lives of three taxi drivers connect a morphing city confronted with modern issues and changing values. With diverse imagery combined with a contemporary score rich in atmosphere, we experience a visceral sense of the common citizensÕ persistent attempts to grasp the elusive. Candid and perceptive in its filming approach and highly cinematic in style, 'Beijing Taxi' takes us on a lyrical journey into fragments of a society riding the bumpy roads to modernization. Though the destination is unknown, they continue to forge ahead." [Synopsis courtesy of SXSW]

Beijing Taxi
Documentary Feature
Director: Miao Wang
Writer: Miao Wang
Producers: Ivana Stolkiner and Miao Wang
Music: Stephen Ulrich and Itamar Ziegler
Cinematography: Ian Vollmer and Sean Price Williams
Editors: Sikay Tang and Miao Wang
77 minutes

Miao Wang introduces herself and her work…

My name is Miao Wang. I¹m a filmmaker based in NY. After studying economics in college I moved to NY and began exploring different creative fields of interest, from photography, design, to film. My MFA thesis at Parsons began the genesis of my first documentary Yellow Ox Mountain. I absorbed inspirations while working as an apprentice with the legendary Albert Maysles. I quickly realized that in documentary filmmaking I have found the outlet to not only fulfill every aspect of my multidisciplinary interests and talents, but also a platform to observe and explore what truly touches my heart: the human condition.

I was born and raised in Beijing. I moved to the US in 1990 and returned to visit only three times in 15 years. The colors, textures, sounds, and characters of my childhood city always remained present in my memory. As the Olympic fever ushered in a new era of unprecedented transformations in Beijing, I understood that the timing was ripe for me to return. I wanted to capture the juxtapositions between the old and the new Beijing that exist side by side today, and, most importantly, to experience how the lives and mentalities of people on the ground have been affected. I have had countless raving conversations about the unique characters of Beijing taxi drivers, with their notoriously gregarious and quintessentially Beijinger personalities. I didn¹t want the taxi itself to be the focus of this film, but I wanted to use it a cinematic device and the thread that unravels the story of the common citizen¹s struggles in this morphing city.

I wanted to focus on capturing the visceral through rich imagery and sound, through the textures, light and mood. I wanted to render the feeling of the city as it had floated through my dreams and memory. In the cab, the shots are often composed to be very tight to generate a real sense of the intimacy of the space. The viewer is simultaneously peeping into a fragment of the taxi driver¹s character defined by the edges of the rear view mirror, and zooming out to the more disconnected world outside framed by the window of the car. The private vs. public space, the modern vs. the traditional and the internal vs. the external worlds are some of the dualities I wanted to juxtapose.

One of the main challenges throughout lies in my desire to make a film that stylistically crosses the boundary between an essay-ic tone poem and a verité character story. I wanted to balance the storytelling, intimate character portraits, and explorations of the social issues with an emphasis on employing very cinematic and moody sequences that give the film a visceral feeling. I would like to show the heart of the people through looking deeper into what at surface may seem to be the mundane.

"Beijing Taxi" employs a fantastic sound track featuring two Brooklyn-based composers and five songs from four indie rock bands from Beijing. Given the affinity to music of the SXSW audience, I think they will really enjoy the interplay of the film with the soundtrack. The music will be on The Music section of the "Beijing Taxi" website (www.beijingtaxithefilm.com). We will also be co-hosting a Beijing Invasion of Film and Music night on Sunday March 14. There will be live performances by four Beijing indie bands showcased in the SXSW Music festival.

On her inspirations during the filming process…

Iranian films such as "Mirror" by Jafar Panahi, where many layers of social context enrich a simple storyline. Chris Marker's films tell a story through a very unique poetic essay style. The Maysles brothers capture real people with an uncanny sensibility showing what's underneath the surface, what makes people tick.

On her next project…

I'm developing a couple of ideas for my next project in China. In one of them the main protagonist is an indie rock musician in Beijing. I would like to explore different social concerns in the modern Chinese society through the conduit of this character.

This article is related to: Documentary, Features, Interviews, Beijing Taxi





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