Film Detail

I Wish I Knew

Jia Zhang-Ke / China / 2010 / 118 min


Jia Zhang-ke, who, according to NPR, “may well be the most important filmmaker working in the world today,” explores one of China’s most fascinating and contested cities in this documentary/fiction film, commissioned for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, yet as personal and inquisitive as any of Jia’s films. Long subjected to romanticized images of gangsters, politicians and revolutionaries, Shanghai has experienced a fantastically tumultuous history. “Like an orphan anxious to learn the truth about where he comes from, I felt an urgency to learn just what lies behind the familiar official historical narratives,” wondered Jia. “What in fact have individuals really experienced?” The result of Jia’s inquiry is an expansive survey of Shanghai’s history as told by its citizens, politicians, criminals, filmmakers and artists, including notable film figures Hou Hsiao-hsien (THE FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI), actress Wei Wei (SPRING IN A SMALL TOWN) and Wang T’ung (RED PERSIMMON). (A cinephile’s dream, I WISH I KNEW is as much about the history of Chinese cinema, and Shanghai in cinema, as it is about Shanghai.) Jia’s use of archival footage along with these testimonies further illuminates how civil war, government crackdowns and exile dictated stories of love, family and career. Many of Jia’s interviewees are, in fact, exiles: anti-Communists, criminals, intellectuals, bloggers and other black sheep who lend this history a particularly flavorful, unlicensed air. Linking the film clips, interviews and recollections to the modern day is Jia’s own cinematic muse, the actress Zhao Tao, seen wistfully exploring the streets of contemporary Shanghai, witness to a history yet to be known. Christine Kwon


  • Director: Jia Zhang-Ke
  • Executive Producer: Ren Zhonglun, Chow Keung, An Gang, Li Peng
  • Producer: Wang Tianyun, Yu Likwai, Meg Jin, Lin Ye, Xiong Yong
  • Cinematographer: Yu Likwai
  • Writer: Jia Zhang-Ke
  • Editor: Zhang Jia


Sat 03.12 800pm

Tue 03.15 700pm


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