In the shadows of high-rises, Shanghai’s small neighbourhoods struggle to survive
In China’s biggest city Shanghai, urbanisation and modernisation have led to the decline of shikumen – traditional neighbourhoods where families live alongside one another in shared residences on cramped, narrow streets. This short documentary explores the pleasures and stresses of life in Lan Yan, a shikumen that has survived as government-sponsored high-rise apartment buildings have swallowed up all the surrounding areas. A collaboration between students from San Francisco State University and Shanghai Normal University, the film follows Zhang JianXin, a bus driver and longtime Lan Yan resident, who is raising his daughter to share his fondness for a fast-disappearing way of life. Knowing the state’s drive for modernisation will likely soon sweep Lan Yan away, Zhang reflects on what is lost when tight-knit communities are replaced by high-rises that most residents don’t want and can’t afford.
Directors: Jamie Oliveira, Danielle Schmidt, Pawara Soh