Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Film Studies

First Advisor

Nam Lee, Ph.D., Chair

Second Advisor

David Desser, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Erica Aguero, Ph.D.


This thesis focuses on Chinese Six-Generation film director Jia Zhangke’s “Three Gorges films” Still Life (2006) and Ash Is Purest White (2018) to demonstrate the impact of post-socialist China's massive infrastructural agenda on Chinese citizens’ lives and psyches in contemporary Chinese society. Starting with the analysis of Still Life, this thesis first examines Jia’s experimentation with the computerized UFO imagery incorporated into the film’s realist narratives and themes to deliver the sense of unreality people feel towards the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric power station and post-socialist China’s largest infrastructural project. Revisiting the subject matter of the Three Gorges Dam in Ash Is Purest White, Jia extends his examination of China's infrastructural agenda into the country's other parts outside the Three Gorges region. This thesis connects Still Life and Ash Is Purest White in which both films’ female protagonists go to the Three Gorges construction site in search of their estranged male partners, and they both experience the unreal moments of UFO sightings. While he presents the Three Gorges construction’s consequences of housing demolitions, resident evictions and hazards and casualties in Still Life, Jia emphasizes the psychological impact China's infrastructural agenda has on the psyche of Ash Is Purest White’s female protagonist.

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