BEIJING (Reuters) - Ju Anqi’s low-budget film “Poet on a Business Trip” took just one main actor, one camera and 40 days on the road in China’s remote western Xinjiang region to make back in 2002.
But it would be another 12 years before the film was completed, after a decade-long dispute between director Ju and actor-poet Shu put the project on hold.
The long gap between shooting and editing means that what originally set out to be a story of a journey into the nature of human desire became a powerful record of a more peaceful time in the increasingly restive region on the borders of central Asia.
In the film, the poet sets off on a business trip across the barren landscape of Xinjiang, hitching rides and befriending the local Uighur population as well as visiting prostitutes. Along the way he composes 16 poems.
“Actually this is really something absurd. There’s no way a poet could go on a business trip, there’s no one to send him on a business trip. He’s sent himself,” Ju told Reuters. “I think this can be seen as an understanding of our times.”
The film was released to critical acclaim and crowned best Asian feature film by a jury from the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in February.
“I wanted to film a person who could connect their desires and the scenery together, traveling back and fourth between (different) sceneries,” Ju said.
“I hoped to find some kind of meaning (through this).”
Hundreds of people have been killed in violence between the Muslim Uighur people who call Xinjiang home and ethnic majority Han Chinese in recent years. Ju said that making the film today would be more difficult.
“It really has recorded the real environment of Xinjiang at that time, including the relationships between different people,” he said. “If you look at it from this point of view (the film) also has some documentary value.”
Reporting by Natalie Thomas and Reuters Television; Editing by Crispian Balmer