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Mr. Zhao’s Second-hand Bookstore

8m Documentary 2020

Language:Mandarin with English Subtitles


UK Premiere

Synopsis Made up of shantytowns and brick houses in the Yangpu District, Shanghai, the area of Dinghai Bridge hosts a busy community of workers and immigrants. Ming Zhao is one of the outsiders who chose to run a second-hand bookstore to make a living. He is affectionately known as ‘Mr. Zhao.’ However, with the decline of traditional bookstores, the disappearance of flea market culture, and the future demolition project of Dinghai Bridge, what will happen to Mr. Zhao’s journey?

Director’s Statement Most people who come to Dinghai Bridge at Yangpu District, Shanghai for the first time will be deeply attracted by its unique characteristics. The chimneys of Shanghai No.17 National Cotton Factory stand tall in this community, the former glory hasn’t changed the living environment of most people here. I wanted to document the place at this time because of its raw vitality and long history. By chance, we came into contact with Mr. Zhao of No. 240 Dinghai Road in our research process. It was a sunny day, he moved many old books with a sense of history to the front of the bookstore, and the books were bathed in sunlight. Gradually, Mr. Zhao became our “guide”. Through filming him, I understood his adherence to traditional culture, as well as the happiness, dreams and difficulties of the people who live here now.

Curators’ Notes An elegy to the city’s wanderers, Mr. Zhao’s Second-Hand Bookstore reminds me of the post-1990s documentary tradition in China. Through a deft insertion of raw footage featuring the less represented fragments of life in Shanghai, the film heartily follows the bittersweet life of Mr. Zhao and his little bookshop — an enclave of the pre-digitalisation lifestyle, now in a state of dilapidation.


2020 the 9th China Daily University News Award Champion of the Best Special Video Chinese Group


Ming Zhao


Yisi Wang


Zhou Que