Films byTexts by Wang Bing
FILM
The Ditch
Wang Bing, 2010, 112’

During the “Great Leap Forward” from 1958 to 1961, Mao’s Anti-Rightist Movement resulted in the “re-education through labour” of middle-class intellectuals and government officials that were declared to be “rightist.” Some three thousand political prisoners were arrested and sent to the Jiabi

DOSSIER EN
29.05.2019

At the turn of this century, the Chinese documentary maker Wang Bing entered film history when he boarded a freight train with a small rented DV camera and started filming the industrial district of Tiexi in northeastern China. This Dossier aims to trace Wang Bing’s trajectory by way of a series of writings and interviews, published between 2009 and 2018, accompanying the ongoing ventures of a filmmaker who has taken on the invaluable task of weaving a map of this other China, to film the trials and tribulations of a land in flux.

Conversation EN
29.05.2019
Julien Gester 2012
Translated by

In He Fengming [Fengming: A Chinese Memoir] (2007) Wang Bing recorded in barely one take He Fengming’s startling testimony of the persecutions that she and her family endured throughout the Anti-Rightist Movement and the Cultural Revolution in China. “I wanted to assure her the most ample freedom of speaking. The core of the film has been shot during one afternoon. Fengming was 76 years old, she’s a woman who entirely lives in the past, in her memory. In fact, it seemed correct to make an immobile film, a ‘talking heads’ film and I did not want to stage anything else. It’s about understanding her for who she is: a spectral woman locked up in the past, wandering about in an apartment that has been reduced to a tomb.”

Conversation EN
29.05.2019

Before the premiere at the 2018 Cannes filmfestival, Emmanuel Burdeau talked to Wang Bing about his colossal documentary work Dead Souls. “As it is often the case, though, the problem was the solution: I finally understood that it was this gap that would be the subject of Dead Souls. I finally realized that what interested me through the memory of the survivors was to be able to touch upon the reality of those who had died. But all this remains very theoretical... From a practical standpoint I still didn’t know how the reality of those who were dead was going to come forth from the testimonies of those who were, on the contrary, still alive and who, when they were interviewed, spoke mostly of just that: the fact that they had survived. ”

Conversation EN
29.05.2019

“There is no absolute freedom for any filmmaker. There will always be limitations on various levels, according to the particular conditions a director works in: “less money” causes the “less freedom” of “less money,” and “more money” causes the “less freedom” of “more money”. For certain filmmakers, having little money means having little freedom, for other filmmakers – like myself – having little money means having more freedom, because the low budget makes things simpler and more straightforward. So I would say that a director has first of all to find the suitable conditions to create, to do what he wants to do. A good director always manages to work around – and sometimes break through – these limitations, and achieve his aims.”

Article EN
29.05.2019

Everything, you know, is nothing. The patients in every psychiatric hospital in the world do not exist. Their identity is denied. They have no name. They are simply crazy. In Wang Bing’s cinema we meet two types of characters. Those who have no name, but who describe themselves through action, and those who have a name and act through words. Dumbed by medicines, the madmen of Wang Bing are deprived of the opportunity to tell their story. This is the main issue that the film tackles and solves.

Article EN
29.05.2019

But fire also burns in the face of Yingying, the dutiful, stoic eldest daughter who yearns to read and write and study, to discover something unattainable in this tiny, remote village. There is fire even in her dirty, white-hooded jacket with the words “Lovely Diary” on the back, a jacket she never takes off throughout the film. She never demands anything, and she barely speaks, yet she is one of the most compelling, most affecting figures in all of documentary cinema.

Article EN
29.05.2019

The exercise is new to me. To reread what I have written in another time. Over the past decade, I was occasionally prompted to speak on Wang Bing’s film West of the Tracks (2002), which I don’t just consider a great movie but a cinematographic event that changes the state of things we still call ‘cinema’. In Corps et cadre (Verdier, 2002), I regretted not being able to produce a true critique of this film fleuve (of nine hours). The thing was beyond me; it still is. I then resolved to a different tactical approach. To examine what remained of the film in my memory. A film which is that long, a whole which is that intricate, cut into four segments each lasting more than one hour, two hours, three hours, obviously presents a challenge to the memory of the spectator that I am.

Conversation EN
29.05.2019

“Behind her eyes I saw something – a light. And that light reminded me of a child’s eyes. I thought, “She’s there and we know that she’s there looking out from behind her eyes.” Eyes talk to us in these ways. When it dawned on me that a second chance to record her was unlikely, I realized that for the most part this would be the way to have her appear in the film. I thought it would probably be the only way to make people feel that she’s there, she’s alive, she’s still alive.”

Conversation NL EN
29.05.2019

“A mental hospital is not, as such, an original theme. The story told by ’Til Madness Do Us Part could just as well happen anywhere else. It is a common story. The fact remains that mental illness is of course an interesting subject, particularly in China. Somehow, mental illness frees mankind, as it liberates mankind from the yoke of the law. At the same time, it makes man more vulnerable... […] The life we see on the outside of an asylum is fundamentally not very different from the one we can see on the inside. What interested me was less the hospital than the patients and the life they were living... They don’t consider this place a mental hospital but the place in which they live. […]  It is their house. That’s where they live as if it is their home. Some of them even stay there for the rest of their lives. Very early on, I was struck by the impression that in a lot of ways there is more humanity on the inside of a hospital than on the outside.”

Conversation EN
29.05.2019
Didier Péron 2014
Translated by

“Yingying lives in hard circumstances. First, she was separated from her mother. Then, she was obliged to live several months without her father. And thereafter, she had to live without him and her two sisters. She has a difficult relation with the human community around her, her family and friends. But when she’s with the animals, you can feel her innocence, a certain human truth, very primal, very basic.”

Conversation NL EN
9.01.2019

Fictie is overal. De vraag is: waar situeren we het beginpunt van fictie? Welke schikking zorgt ervoor dat er iets gebeurt? In zekere zin kunnen we zeggen dat er sprake is van fictie zodra een soort narratief ons vertelt of laat zien dat er iets gebeurt. Daarom ben ik in mijn recente werk vooral geïnteresseerd in het verkennen van de grenzen van fictie, de grens tussen ‘er gebeurt niets’ en ‘er gebeurt iets’. 

FILM
Wang Bing, 2018, 495’

“Since I began researching the history of Jiabiangou State Farm in 2004, I have met and interviewed nearly one hundred survivors of Jiabiangou.

Article EN
5.12.2018
Wang Bing 2012
Translated by

“When making a documentary film about events that happened nearly sixty years ago, an oral history format is an easy choice, but I have deliberately chosen not to take this approach. Instead I hope to show, through the lives of the Jiabiangou survivors, how the present speaks to the past.” Wang Bing wrote this text in 2012 as a treatment for the movie Past in the Present (2018). Later, the name was changed into Dead Souls.

ARTICLE FR EN
18.04.2018

Vertical cinema, films that walk. Horizontal cinema, films that are recumbent. Between them is a time outside time, the same duration alien to the laws of work, of reason and of health. How, and until when, can a life be extended once it seems to have left itself behind? What virtual actions remain latent within what appears to be the most complete inaction? From indefatigable walking to the fatigue of the recumbent, the spectacular reversal of postures is also accompanied by a shared perseverance: Wang Bing’s gesture consists in disengaging from the core of exhaustion the ultimate fragments of the possible.

ARTICLE FR EN
18.04.2018

Cinéma vertical, films qui marchent. Cinéma horizontal, films qui gisent. Des uns aux autres s’ouvrent le même temps, la même durée étrangère aux lois du travail, de la raison et de la santé. Comment, et jusqu’à quand, une vie peut-elle se prolonger, à partir du moment où elle semble comme sortie d’elle-même ? De quelles virtualités d’action l’inaction a priori la plus complète est encore grosse ? De l’infatigable marche à la fatigue des gisants, s’il y a un spectaculaire bouleversement des postures, se développe aussi une commune persévérance : le geste de Wang Bing dégage d’ultimes fragments de possible du cœur de l’épuisement.

ARTICLE NL
28.03.2018

In het midden van de film gebeurt er iets geniaals, waardoor we uit Fengmings verhaal naar het heden worden gesleurd. Op een bepaald moment onderbreekt Wang haar om te vragen of het licht eventueel aan zou mogen. Het gesprek begon in de vooravond en zonder dat we het als kijker echt beseffen, is Fengming ondertussen volledig in het duister gehuld. Haar ‘heden’ is verdwenen.

ARTICLE NL
28.03.2018

Wang Bings werk echoot Johan van der Keukens gedachte dat cinema “alles kan zijn, maar niets IS, behalve een oog en een oor.” Dus in de eerste plaats wandelen, de ogen en oren openen met arme middelen, waarin Wang Bing zowel genereus aandacht geeft als streng aandacht eist. “Ik kijk en luister hier en nu: kijk en luister!”

note EN
27.03.2018

On the occasion of the Wang Bing focus program at the Courtisane festival and the subsequent program at CINEMATEK, Sabzian, Courtisane and CINEMATEK compiled, edited and published this modest publication on Wang Bing. This publication aims to trace Wang Bing’s trajectory by way of a series of writings and interviews that were published between 2009 and 2017.

Article EN
21.03.2018

Wang Bing’s film is at once epic and intimate – epic because of the sheer scale of the constructions, and the long, straight railroad tracking shots Wang employs to render its geography; intimate because of its focus on the daily life of the last workers and the soon-to-be displaced. Wang’s film is not journalistic in that it does not show us, for example, the bureaucrats who made the various life-altering decisions, and it doesn’t show the rest of Shenyang – the bourgeois neighborhoods, shops, hotels, highways.

FILM
Bitter Money
Wang Bing, 2016, 152’

Film Comment: What’s your next move?

Wang Bing: Traveling, shooting, editing, more traveling, more shooting, more editing. [...]

FILM
Wang Bing, 2017, 86’

“Fang Xiuying is the mother of a good friend of mine. I was going to make a documentary about her in 2015, but it was postponed because I was too busy at the time. In 2016, the friend called to tell me that her mother’s illness had grown severe, and she might not live very long.

FILM
Fengming: A Chinese Memoir
Wang Bing, 2007, 186’

“The American poet Muriel Rukeyser asked, ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?’; her answer: ‘The world would split open.’ The tragic extremes of Fengming’s biography seem to demand such a cosmic response, or at least some physical manifestation or visual correlative ons

FILM
Three Sisters
Wang Bing, 2012, 153’

New Left Review: How did you meet the three little sisters there? As your film shows, they are living mainly by themselves, without parents to take care of them.

FILM
West of the Tracks
Wang Bing, 2002, 551’

“Without question the greatest work to have come out of the Chinese documentary movement, and must be ranked among the most extraordinary achievements of world cinema in the new century.”

FILM
Wang Bing, 2016, 148’

“Cinema can’t get more iconic than this, as the Ta’ang, made itinerant by war, create shelter with whatever they can find, which usually means sticks and stones. Wang watches as a group tries to build a frame for a tarpaulin roof with bamboo poles scavenged from what grows along the road.

Conversation NL EN
20.09.2017

“Fiction is everywhere. The question is: where do we situate the starting point of fiction? What kind of arrangement makes something happen? In a way, we can say there is fiction whenever there is some kind of narrative that tells, or shows, us that something is happening. That’s why, in my recent work, I have mostly been interested in exploring the edges of fiction, the edge between nothing happens and something happens.”

Conversation NL EN
9.11.2014

“Een psychiatrisch ziekenhuis is, op zich, geen origineel thema. Het verhaal van Feng ai [’Til Madness Do Us Part] had zich zeker ook elders kunnen afspelen. Het is een alledaags verhaal. Toch is geestesziekte natuurlijk een interessant onderwerp, met name in China. Geestesziekte bevrijdt de mens, in zekere zin, want ze bevrijdt hem van het juk van de wet. Tegelijkertijd maakt ze hem kwetsbaarder … [...] Het leven dat men buiten een inrichting waarneemt is in wezen niet zo verschillend van het leven dat men binnen kan waarnemen. Wat me interesseerde was minder het ziekenhuis dan de patiënten en het leven dat ze er leidden. Zij beschouwen die plek niet als een ziekenhuis maar als een plaats waar ze leven. [...] Het is hun huis. Ze leven er alsof ze thuis zijn, sommigen blijven er zelfs tot hun dood. Ik was al vroeg getroffen door de indruk dat in veel opzichten er meer menselijkheid binnen dan buiten het ziekenhuis was.”

Conversation EN
22.10.2014

“I don’t usually worry about whether the audience will accept the way my film is designed. You are the filmmaker; it is your job to make a convincing work. Instead of worrying about the audience, you should search for ways to make your film a good one. To me, it means to look for, or create, a potentially better cinema that fits your needs in making this particular work. At the same time, your film must be capable of accommodating the living reality of its subject. [...] The technique and style you choose for a film should be appropriate to your subject matter. What is really important is to establish a relation between the subject of your film and your audience. It is the camera that creates this connection.”