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The subject is as prosaic and undigital as a bicycle, so it is a little ironic that in this digital age, a Hungarian born, Australian resident journalist can converse with a Chinese film director in Beijing without meeting, seeing or hearing each other - by email. Wang Xiaoshuai answers Andrew L. Urbanís questions on his latest film, Beijing Bicycle.

The bicycle is a simple vehicle - and symbolic of a simpler life. Were you motivated by a sort of nostalgia perhaps, for an old fashioned, simpler China?
If you see any nostalgia in it, then it must be me who is a little bit nostalgic.

The characters have instantly recognisable weaknesses - did you base any of them on real people, and if so, who?
My characters are not weak. They just have no other choices. When facing the society and problems for the first time, the adolescent usually donít know what to do, but there is life in their blood. I didnít base anyone on real people. Every one of them has a little in common with people in everyday life.

Are any of the events based on real events?
There is a funny event after I finished this film for a few months: Behind where I live, a countryside boy grabbed another one and accused him of stealing his bicycle. They argued for a whole day and it still has been settled down by evening. Theyíve made a scene. I am happy that I just made a film although I donít know how to solve their problem.

Tell us something about your own relationship with bicycles; do you have one - did you have one and if so how did you get it, etc?
Like anyone who grows up in the 60sí owning a bicycle is also my dream. I wanted to grow up faster so I can learn how to ride a bicycle. I got my first bicycle when I was in college. That was a 2nd hand bicycle and was stolen soon after. Many people have the same experience. I have had more than one bicycle. That is a time which is worth of being remembered.

Published February 7, 2002

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Guei (Cui Lin) comes to Beijing from his village and finds a job as a bicycle courier Ė lowly paid, but with the prospect of owning his silver mountain bike if things go well. Within a day of owning it, the bike is stolen, and his job is in jeopardy. Determined to find it, he begins an impossible task, in a city where bicycles are the most popular form of transport. But his perseverance pays off Ė although it leads to a bitter battle with the young Jian (Li Bin), who claims to have paid for it. Jian also has bigger things at stake: a girl, Xiao (Gao Yuanyuan) who rides with him from school Ö.The confrontation with his family escalates into a war between Guei and Jianís friends, culminating in a dramatic and unexpected finale.

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