Jixiang Film Productions 吉祥一社电影制片厂
He Jixing has been making films about Jixiang village and conducting research about the village’s history and present since 2016. This initiative by He Jixing also opens up conversations and reflections with fellow villagers across generations. Recently, Jixing has launched a series of screening events and workshops on the site where the village temple used to stand.
Yesterday was the Qing Ming Festival. As in previous years, everyone went up the mountain to sweep the graves and have picnics. This year, the fire prevention effort on the mountain is much stricter. Two helicopters have been hovering over the gravesites scattered on the mountainsides. The forest fire fighters have forcibly extinguished many families’ cooking fires. The dishes are only half cooked, so they are not happy, but our family is somehow spared. After listening to what people are saying as they go down the mountain, I feel even more fortunate.
This afternoon, Petra made a big bowl of popcorn. She told me that I should only add a small amount of sugar. The corn was brought by Sarah Lewison from the United States. The movie was not finished, but the popcorn was finished, and the rest of the corn she brought could still be popped on another occasion.
Tonight we watched three animations: Tadpoles Looking for Mom, Hedgehog in the Fog, and Iron Fan Princess.
On Saturday, March 30, 2019, I notice the potatoes in the orchard had started germinating many days ago. The day before yesterday, the village chief issued a notice in the village WeChat group that No. 30 Jizi Reservoir would open the floodgate today. This was good news. The ditches around the house and fields have been dry all winter. The villagers are busy working the fields that have rested for a whole winter. In the afternoon, with my mother out in the field, I take a clean white sheet from my home to the activity centre and hang it under the big pine tree to serve as screen for the evening movie. At about 4:30 in the afternoon, the water from the reservoir arrives in the village. I ran to the main ditch behind the studio and note the water is still muddy from it’s journey. Today’s dinner is a little later than usual. By the time Petra and I take the equipment to the activity centre, it is going dark. In the twilight, I recognize the eagerness, the sense of anticipation in the movements of the children waiting by the gate. Once the door has been unlocked, they – just like the water in the Jizi Reservoir that flows through Jixiang village – once again populate the space that had been a school during my childhood.
Friday, March 29. After lunch, the light has become more intense, there are few pedestrians on the road; occasionally a vehicle passes. The children in the village are still at school anticipating the weekend, hoping that time will accelerate. As for me, I am trying to stretch time to go a little further. I am going door to door to inform families that after dinner tomorrow there will be a movie night at the Senior Activity Center. I will be showing my short film Grandfather Made a Dream Last Night and Bi Gan’s Roadside Picnic. As I am standing in the scorching sun, I am unexpectedly nervous.
Going down the road to the old activity center, there is no one in the yard. The ultraviolet light has grown in intensity and the camera in my hand is a little bit hot. Just a week ago, the old people in the village gathered and drank under the pine tree in the yard, spending a total of three days together. Many years ago, when the activity center was an elementary school, I was a pupil here. I walked this way for two years and I recall the intensity with which I waited for the weekend. Whenever I take a walk, I will always linger in this yard. Time passes and I am changed. I changed myself to this present. Thinking of the screening activities tomorrow night, the sense of confusion in time and space is even more disorientating than my nervousness. Many memories and thoughts are sprouting and drifting through in my mind simultaneously, just like the blossoms around me in Jixiang Village in March.
The first event took place on Spring Equinox (21-03-2019), an annual event during which the older generation of the village meet and eat together for three days in the community centre. Like the old men and women, the community centre has also been affected by many changes during its lifetime. Going back to before the 1950’s when many of the older people present were children, the site hosted the village temple. It subsequently became a primary school for their children and finally a community center for the elderly. Jixing shared his film Village Temple on this occasion as a work in progress. The film is a semi-documentary, recording the event of the recent funeral of He Zhengkun, who played the Erhu in the local orchestra, as well as an interview with retired primary school teacher Mu Zhang about the site and its history.