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SYNOPSIS

A small village in Småland, the Astrid Lindgren heartland of Sweden. The Chinese Commission on the Future disembarks. They’ve done their research. Sweden holds a seventh place, with China far down the scale at 112th. We’re talking about happiness, a word that with growing frequency is touted by politicians and economists alike. But can happiness really be measured?
Simultaneously, in a city in the south of China a group of young people, all wearing blindfolds, grope their way out of their doors and onto the streets. They move one by one, as if on a given signal. Is it some kind of silent protest? Is it the enactment of a dream? Or an absurd attempt to do the impossible?

This film weaves documentary and fiction, poetry and traditional dialogue. The story is set in the framework of a visit by an expert commission sent from China to Sweden to study happiness. The commission’s observations are certainly not what anyone would have expected. And in this particular, neglected Swedish village, with its diminishing population, one member of the commission suddenly discovers a world of possibilities.

The manuscript is partly based on texts by artists Luo Fei, He Libin, Lei Yan, Cheng Liangchun, Su Yabi and Sun Guojuan; who also appear in the film.

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THE WORD ON EVERY TONGUE

Suddenly everyone seemed to be talking about happiness. The word leapt off the pages of life style magazines and entered the realms of political and economic debate. The United Nations ordered a ”World Happiness Report” and convened a Happiness Conference. The Guardian wrote about "The serious business of creating a happier world" and the need for a redefinition of the concept of growth. Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt’s, Future Commission explored new methods to define and quantify the national welfare.

This was in 2012 and we were on our way to Kunming in China. It quickly became obvious that this wasn’t merely a European trend. Several Chinese papers reported demands from a growing middle class, that values other than the strictly economical must receive attention. If not, they would consider leaving the country. This, in several provinces, resulted in the establishment of a happiness index in which success, prosperity and the achievements of local politicians could be measured. Local rulers promised their citizens not only more money in their pockets, but happier lives to go along with it.

Is all this talk about happiness some sort of political bait, or is it an honest and serious attempt to face the social challenges of our times? For the Communist Party of China it is obviously a new strategy for retaining power. But regardless of the purpose, how can one define, measure or regulate something as subjective as happiness? With what vocabulary can we capture a concept so fluid and so complex? Has ”happiness” become yet another commodity that needs to be price tagged before we can value it?

The film can be seen as a poetic articulation of a global experience, as acutely felt in the Swedish countryside as in a Chinese metropolis.

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Directors' Statement

There are things that can't be put into words. Even when one has the right to speak openly, there are many experiences that are difficult to dress in language. An action in a particular context can speak volumes, even though no single word is uttered. And sometimes poetry speaks with greater strength and definition than any description or explanation. Whether or not you are an artist or a documentary filmmaker, this is something you will always need to come to terms with; the vagaries of language. While not ignoring the fact that we live in a media landscape that rewards the simple message, the image that sells.

This film is a hybrid, a weave of materials both documentary and staged. It toys with clichés - our ingrained picture of Sweden, our picture of China. It blends a commercial language currently in fashion with the language of bureaucracy and then with poetry. This is a film grown out of a collaboration with six Chinese artists. Their texts form the undercurrent in the river of images, sound, action and voices that make up the other components of this film. Relax and flow with it. Which reality is more real?

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ABOUT EVENT SCORES

The idea to make the film came through meeting Luo Fei, He Libin, Lei Yan, Cheng Liangchun, Su Yabi and Sun Guojuan in Kunming. Collaboration was initiated. Several of these artists worked with performance and for that reason we began to create ”event scores” on the theme of happiness.
An event score (sometimes also called “proposal piece”) is a kind of performance instruction, a score describing a series of activities to be performed, used by artists since the 1960’s, the most well known being those of Yoko Ono. We gave our colleagues instructions and they gave us instructions; steeped in the awareness that restrictions concerning what could be said and done publically differed greatly in our respective countries. Through interpretation, association and travel between China and Sweden, this film took form. The manuscript is partly based on our event scores; some possible and some impossible to realize, some with a political edge, others relying solely on the evocative power of poetry. All the artists, with the unfortunate exception of Sun Guojuan who was refused an entry visa for Sweden, are featured in the film.



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PRODUCTION INFORMATION AND CREDITS

Orginal Title Happiness, a Five-Year Plan
Production Year 2014
Format HD, DCP, DVD
Sound 5.1, Stereo
Genre Drama/Experimental
Duration 14 minuters
Language Mandarin
Subtitles English, Swedish, Mandarin


Production Company Nu-institutet
With Support from The Swedish Film Institute/Andra Lasmanis and the Swedish Arts Grants Committe
In Collaboration with SVT /Short Film
Copyright © 2014 Karin Wegsjö and Janna Holmstedt/Nu-institutet


Written, Directed and Produced by Karin Wegsjö and Janna Holmstedt
Poems and Event Scores by Luo Fei, Lei Yan, He Libin, Su Yabi, Cheng Lianchung, Sun Guojuan
Director of Photography Inu Enescu (SE), Wang Bang Ji, Huang Shun (CH)
Editor Sascha Fülscher
Music Magnus Andersson Lagerqvist, Lisa Nordström, Midaircondo
Cast Luo Fei, Cheng Lianchung, He Libin, Lei Yan, Su Yabi
Supporting Cast Huang Shun, Xiaolin Zhu, Liu Jin, Wu Yuequan, Jin Xiaoyun, Sha Yurong, Zhu Shilin, Hou Yi, Wang Kui, Wang Mengjun, Chang Changxin, Reng Yuheng, Zhang Caiyun, Shi Kejian, Zhou Tao, Josef Mellergård, Janna Holmstedt, Bruno Ullstad Wegsjö
Production and Costume Design Janna Holmstedt och Karin Wegsjö
Sound Technician Calle Buddee Roos
Production Manager Xiaolin Zhu (CH)
Production Coordinator Anna Mellergård (SE), Wu Yuerong (CH)
Special Thanks TCG Nordica, Kunming (CH), Stationskooperativ M och KAiM, Mariannelund (SE)
Thanks to Emilkraften, Stadsmissionen Stockholm, Fredrik Larsen och Linda Carlsson
Post-Production Chimney Stockholm
Grading Oskar Larsson
Sound Design and Mix Magnus Andersson Lagerqvist
Graphic Design Fredrik Andersson
Photography Wang Bang Ji
Translations Xiao Diming, Björn Kjellgren, Janna Holmstedt, Xiaolin Zhu

Sound Excerpt Anders Borg, Swedish Minister of Finance "A Policy of Happiness", debate in Parliament, Apr 4, 2011
Quotes taken from "China orders officials to go out and 'make people happy'", The Telegraph, Mar 2, 2011; "World Happiness Report 2012", The Earth Institute, Columbia University, commissioned for the April 2nd United Nations Conference on Happiness; "Vetandets värld", Vetenskapsradion, Sveriges Radio, Jul 5, 2010; Mark Williamson (Action for Happiness), reporting from the UN Conference on Happiness, Apr 3, 2012; "What are the economics of happiness?", The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann, Apr 5, 2012; "Holiday survey: are you happy?", China Central Television, Sep–Oct 2012.

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