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KU QIAN, Bitter Money, a film by Wang Bing

Last Updated on 2020/12/07

Presented at Venezia 73, Orizzonti. In a fast growing city of East China, migrants have been arriving and living for a dream of a better life.

But what they find there is little opportunities and poor living conditions that push people, even couples, into violent and oppressive relations. Xiao Min, Ling Ling and Lao Yeh are some of the characters of this bitter chronicle of today China.


Duration : 152 minutes.
Format : Digital cinema 2K ; 16 : 9 ; Color.
Audio : 5.1.
Language : Mandarin, Dialect of Anhui, Yunnan and Henan.
Production Countries : France / Hong Kong.

YouTube player

Press conference and photocall of the film “Ku Qian” (Bitter Money) by Wang Bing (Orizzonti)

In Yunnan province, Xiao Min, 15 years old, embarks in a long journey. Leaving her
family, she’s on her way to start a new life with her cousins. They are going to work in some industrial city of eastern China, as seem to do many of the young people travelling the thousand of kilometers by their side in the bus and the train. At her work place, Xiao Min meets another migrant girl, Ling Ling, who’s been in this city for a long time. Long enough to be suffering from sleep disorder, anxiety and stress that make her life a misery. Her relation with her husband is in trouble, as living with little income pushes them into regular violent interaction, threats and fights. Victim of a work accident, her husband has lost his right hand and his dreams. Ling Ling is courageous enough to stand up to him, but friends and clients of her husband’s little shop seem to be the ones preventing the worst to happen.
One of her good Samaritan, Lao Yeh, now 40, is one of the oldest resident in the neighborhood. He is in love with a co-worker, a married woman, with whom he likes to spend time talking. His life is otherwise quite empty, apart from the discussions with his dorm friend, Huang Lei, always dragging and complaining about his abusing boss and his tiny wages.


Director’s statement

Ku Qian follows three young people leaving their Yunnan hometown to go to work for the first time in one of the busiest city of China East coast, a place with the highest number of part-time workers. The camera follows each character closely, capturing the true emotions of their daily hard work and their disappointments upon receiving their wages. Money has never been more important in Chinese society. As now everyone wishes to become wealthy. However, the reality is that everyone lives in a daydream. Life’s still a barren everywhere you look. In an era filled with illusions and disappointments, we often cheat our own feelings in order to live an obedient life. “Wandering” has become the main theme in normal Chinese people’s opinion today. I used swaying of focuses, wondering from one subject to the other, with a constant stagger of camera shots and characters, in order to tell their stories.

Wang Bing


Born in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, China, in 1967, Wang Bing studied photography at the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Art and cinematography at Beijing Film Academy. He began his career as an independent filmmaker in 1999. Discovered in 2003, West of the Tracks, a documentary work of more than 9 hours long, encountered a great success internationally. Besides feature documentary, he is also active in video installation, directed several fictions and started a noteworthy work in photography. His work has been selected in many film festivals. Acclaimed by critics and recognized as one of the most important Chinese artists and film directors of his time, he also is being honored by retrospectives of his entire work in major museum, as recently in Centre Pompidou.


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