Happy Everyday: Park Life in China

The retirees of Shanghai and Beijing have carved out a flamboyant niche for letting off steam.

Year: 2013
Country: Australia
Running time: 52 mins

Editor: Peter O’Donoghue
Producers: Philippa Campey, Sarah Wishart, Peter O’Donoghue
Sound: Pete Smith, Pete Best
Music: Melissa Hunt
In Mandarin with English subtitles

With: Chen Hong, Qian Jinhua, Wang Jianzhong, Yao Yuexia, Fan Zhiying, Nizi, Xiao Yu, Lao Liu, Cheng Dage, Wang Ji, Tiantan Huzi Wuzhe

Best known for his collaborations with Florian Habicht, most recently as editor on Love Story, Sydney-based New Zealander Peter O’Donoghue shot, directed and edited this entertaining, ambivalent picture of recreational activity in the leafy public parks of Shanghai and Beijing. Wittily cut to the lilt of Viennese waltzes or the beat of Chinese pop broadcast from the park tannoys, his footage of retirees engaged in vigorous group calisthenics brims with their exuberance and the joyous nuttiness of the cultural anomalies. There are some marvellous displays of senior fitness, and some sharp dance moves too. And, a few show ponies excepted, no one seems inhibited by any fear of appearing silly or undignified. However, if asked the simplest questions about their well-being, the happy pensioners exhibit a lifetime’s habit of self-censorship, even congratulating themselves for saying nothing that might cause them any trouble. Orchestrating their voices into his visual poem of park activity, O’Donoghue makes his point succinctly without ever raising his own.

View the trailer at: www.happyeverydayfilm.com