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A BEAUTIFUL NEW WORLD

China, 1998 (MIFF 1999, Regional Features)

Director: Shi Runjiu

Bao Gun is a simple country boy whose dreams come true. He wins a contest in his small town, the prize being a deluxe apartment in a sumptuous, new Shanghai high-rise. Armed only with a single suitcase, the address of a distant relative and trousers that ride too high, Bao Gun heads for the big smoke and a world of trouble.

This delightful Chinese comedy charmed audi­ences at this year's Berlin Film Festival with its astute portrayal of China in flux—traditional ways and attitudes meeting capitalism head-on. Bao Gun is very much the innocent who is fleeced or abused by almost everyone he meets. A classic country hick, city folk take advantage of his honesty and trust, laughing at his considerate nature and naivete.

Bao Gun discovers that there is one small hitch with his glorious new accommodation... it hasn't been built yet and won't be ready for two years! A shonky real estate broker tries to dupe him by offering a fraction of the apartment's worth as consolation but Bao Gun's family have already been elevated in status based on their son's good fortune—there is no going back.

Central to this mirthful misery is Bao Gun's 'aunt', Huang Jin Fang, a woman of his own age, wise in the ways of sophisticated Shanghai. Aunty Fang runs any number of scams, is up to her neck in debt and relishes the convenience of a lodger who is also her cash cow. Just when it looks like Bao Gun is about to succumb to the pressures of big city life, a hard lesson courtesy of a surly busker turns his head, and life, around.

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