Beijing Taxi, one of the titles featured in our Taxi Driver list is documentary film which follows the lives of three cab drivers in the Chinese capital during the two years leading up to the 2008 Olympics.
Wei Caixa, mother of a young daughter, is a restless soul who moves from one job to the next in her search for freedom and independence. She is saddened by the demolition of much of the Old City as Beijing transforms itself into a metropolis of the “modern” world (a process that has only accelerated in anticipation of the Olympics).
Bai Jiwen was a child when the Cultural Revolution began in China and didn’t receive more than a fourth grade education. Now in his fifties and planning to retire from taxi driving in a few years, he is somewhat bemused by the changes occurring in Chinese society as it moves towards capitalism.
Zhou Yi, who is Bai Jiwen’s junior by perhaps a couple of decades, expresses reservations not so much about the new economy as about Beijingers’ ability to adapt to it. Whether this is meant as a criticism or simply an observation of his fellow citizens (and of himself) is unclear. He doesn’t express particular enthusiasm for his current occupation, but he doesn’t seem to have great ambitions to change it, either.
Overall, one senses that these cab drivers would like to believe in the possibility of self-renewal in this new society (expressed in slogans painted on city walls, such as “Impossible is nothing!”), but they can’t quite be convinced. Watching this documentary has made me want to learn more about the average Chinese citizen’s reactions to the changes that have been taking place.