The World (2004) — China
Chinese film maker Zhang Ke Jia uses a clever location to explore modern China's uncertain place in the larger world. His film is set in Beijing's "World Park" that features authentic if tacky one-third size replicas of the world's iconic places: the Giza pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, Manhattan and the World Trade Towers, London's Big Ben, etc. A monorail circles the impeccably clean grounds in fifteen minutes, accompanied by a sterile soundtrack. Against this faux background, a young couple struggles for a real human relationship. Taisheng is a security guard; his girlfriend Tao is a performer. Like many millions of Chinese, they've left their provincial homes to make money in the city that's impossible to earn elsewhere. But Tao worries that the theme park will "turn me into a ghost." And when a real airplane flies overhead, she observes, "Who flies on airplanes? I've never even known anyone who's been on an airplane." Their stormy relationship speaks to personal and national challenges faced by the people and nation of China. In Mandarin with English subtitles.