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No Country for Young Men: Chinese modernity, displacement, and initiatory ritual in Chinese Sixth Generation cinema

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This article examines youth initiation in two Chinese Sixth Generation films, Wang Xiaoshuai's Shiqui sui de dan che/Beijing Bicycle (2001) and Li Yang's Mang jing/Blind Shaft (2003). It addresses the broader issue of the 'floating population' in China and the impact that rapid modernization has on the social fabric of Chinese society. It also suggests that in light of such social injustices and cinematic representation in the post-socialist China of today, under the guise of modernity and economic progress, there exists a dislocated and disconnected transition into adulthood for youth populations. This article argues that Wang and Yi directly investigate one of the consequences of Chinese modernity: disrupted youth initiatory ritual. Beijing Bicycle and Blind Shaft depict in a narrative documentary form an entire generation of Chinese youth who have been geographically and psychologically displaced as they lose their family connections and education opportunities, move from job to job, and fail to experience appropriate initiation into adulthood, all of which have contributed to a fractured social system.

Keywords: Chinese film; Sixth Generation; displacement; floating population; initiatory ritual; modernity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Alberta

Publication date: August 9, 2012

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  • Asian Cinema is a seminal journal, which has been published since 1995 by the Asian Cinema Studies Society under the stewardship of Professor John Lent. From 2012 Asian Cinema will be published by Intellect as part of our Film Studies journal portfolio. The journal currently publishes a variety of scholarly material - including research articles, interviews, book and film reviews and bibliographies - on all forms and aspects of Asian cinema. The journal's broad aim is to advance understanding and knowledge of the rich traditions of the various Asian cinemas, thereby making an invaluable contribution to the field of Film Studies in general.
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