Posts Tagged ‘bumming in beijing’

The Chinese Artist’s Life, Then and Now: Wu Wenguang’s Bumming in Beijing and Jia Zhangke’s Dong

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Dong (dir. Jia Zhangke)

Published as part of Dong Week at dGenerate Films, a series of articles on Jia Zhangke and the art world in China.

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Among the remarkable films of Jia Zhangke, Dong (2006) is perhaps a less well-known entry. In this hour-long documentary, Jia follows renowned avant-garde realist painter Liu Xiaodong as he works on his famously large canvas works, capturing demolition workers on China’s Three Gorges Dam and sex workers languishing in the urban squalor of Bangkok, Thailand. Jia allows the camera to go in and out of Liu’s life fluidly, framing the artist’s presence within his surroundings, highlighting the relationship the artist has within a given social environment.

Dong is unique among Chinese independent films in how it demystifies the creative process and explores the artist’s role in society. At the same time, it can’t help but evoke another important documentary about artists in China, one that is credited for launching the New Documentary Cinema (aka the New Documentary Movement) of the 1990s. That film is Wu Wenguang’s Bumming in Beijing: The Last Dreamers (1990).