Xiao Pudong

Field Recordings, 2017
20 minutes, Colour
Single Channel film
Chinese and English subtitles

Margins are not just found on the periphery. Sometimes they travel inward to the very heart of a bustling metropolis. XiaoPudong offers a brief perspective into life aboard the barges and docks of the Suzhou and Huangpu rivers. Our guide through this landscape is Zhu Weihua, a Shanghainese crane driver whose plans for the future depend on him receiving compensation for the demolition of his house. He talks about his life and home town. As we follow his voice through the wet landscape of a Shanghai winter we’re made aware of the boundaries that exist, both between land and water, and between the prosperous and those with fewer options. The open spaces of rivers and fields, suggest an alternate albeit precarious freedom that in the end is undermined by the poor returns and tedium of a labouring life.

At another level the film also captures Shanghai on the turn, China’s great building explosion is coming to an end and Pudong’s wild industrial swathes are to be beautified to better serve the needs of the new immaterial service economy. If a smaller number of sky-scrapers wait for barges of gravel and sand then the life of those working on the river will change. Xiao Pudong provides a portrait of a single worker within a city of twenty four million but also an elegy to a landscape.