The Chinese film industry keeps producing new surprises, and low budget, independent productions are the latest. Made in black and white for only US $77,000, The Days is 29 year old Wang Xiaoshuai's first film. However, if the Chinese regime has its way it will also be his last. Enraged, they have banned it and decreed he is never to direct again.
The Days is refreshingly direct and full of insights into contemporary China. One reason the film has upset the government must be because it gives the lie to the official picture of China as a bustling boom economy full of happy consumers. Instead of the entrepreneur class, Wang's film centres on an artist couple played by Liu Xiaodong and Yu Hong, themselves leading figures in the Chinese art world. In a land where the pursuit of wealth is the only avenue of free expression, they live a stifling routine in which they find it hard to make ends meet or come up with any inspiration. In a last ditch effort to save their marriage, they take a trip to the husband's hometown where his wife finally tells him news he does not want to hear.
Ironically, just by making The Days, Wang Xiaoshuai has helped to answer the despair that has overtaken the lives of his leading characters and their real life counterparts. He has demonstrated that it is possible to live and work as an artist outside the mechanisms of the state and it is possible to find inspiration. Indeed, it is difficult to see how the generic regime is going to enforce its ban on Wang without imprisoning him, as he has already proved he can go it alone without them.