Jia Zhangke was born in 1970 in Fenyang, Shanxi Province of China. He graduated from Beijing Film Academy and made his first feature film Xiao Wu in 1998. He is now settled in Beijing and actively involved in the filmmaking scene throughout China. Still Life won the Golden Lion Award (Best Film) at the 63rd Venice International Film Festival in 2006.
This film is about four deaths, four incidents which actually happened in China in recent years: three murders and one suicide. These incidents are well-known to people throughout China. They happened in Shanxi, Chongqing, Hubei and Guangdong - that is, from the north to the south, spanning much of the country.
I wanted to use these news reports to build a comprehensive portrait of life in contemporary China. China is still changing rapidly, in a way that makes the country look more prosperous than before. But many people face personal crises because of the uneven spread of wealth across the country and the vast disparities between the rich and the poor. Individual people can be stripped of their dignity at any time. Violence is increasing. It's clear that resorting to violence is the quickest and most direct way that the weak can try to restore their lost dignity. For reasons I can't fully explain, these four individuals and the incidents they were involved in remind me of King Hu's martial arts films. I've drawn on inspiration from the martial arts genre to construct these present-day narratives.
Throughout the ages, the predicaments that individuals face have changed very little - just as their responses to those predicaments have also changed very little. I also see this as a film about the sometimes hidden connections between people, that make me want to question the way our society has evolved. In this 'civilised' society that we have taken so long to evolve, what actually links one person with another?
Jia Zhangke (April 2013)