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Wang Bing
Wang Bing

The Film Society of Lincoln Center will honor Chinese documentarian Wang Bing with a three-film tribute titled Wang Bing: The Weight of Experience,  November 16 to 18.

An intrepid chronicler of the human tribulations underlying modern China’s social and economic transformation, Wang Bing makes films that are epic in duration yet precise in scope. Forging intimate bonds with his subjects, he captures the plights of individuals and communities in factory towns and rural villages, and demands that we behold the political complexity and moral weight of their struggles.

FSLC will present the New York premiere of Wang’s latest, the eight-hour opus Dead Souls; a rare screening of his debut masterpiece, the three-part West of the Tracks (2002); and the first U.S. showing of the single-shot 15 Hours (2017), screening free in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater. Wang will appear in person to discuss these films and his singular art.

All films screen digitally at the Walter Reade Theater (165 W. 65th St.) unless otherwise noted.

15 Hours
Wang Bing, Hong Kong, 2017, 900m
Mandarin with English subtitles
This documentary installation consists of a single, 15-hour take shot in a garment factory in China and captures the daily labor of its 300,000 migrant workers and the functioning of its 18,000 production units. Rigorous and hypnotic, 15 Hours marks Wang’s most radical meditation on the contemporary meaning of work and the state of labor conditions in present-day China. (Free Amphitheater screening)

Dead Souls
Wang Bing, France/Switzerland, 2018, 495m
Mandarin with English subtitles
Wang Bing’s latest is a monumental work of testimony, largely comprised of interviews with survivors of the Jiabiangou and Mingshui re-education camps of the late 1950s, which were set up in the Gobi Desert to imprison alleged reactionaries and anti-Communists a decade after China’s revolution in 1949. In making Dead Souls, Wang interviewed over 100 survivors from almost all of China’s provinces, recording traumatic memories, melancholic recollections and sober reflections on political repression in the country prior to the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s. As with all of Wang’s work, Dead Souls is both an engrossing epic and a profound moral act in and of itself. A Grasshopper Film and Icarus release.

West of the Tracks, Part 1: Rust
Wang Bing, China, 2003, 224m
Mandarin with English subtitles
The first part of Wang’s debut film—a nine-hour epic about the decline of an industrial Tiexi district in the city of Shenyang—follows a small group of workers employed in three state-owned factories. Wang captures the workers’ plight, caught between backbreaking labor in substandard conditions and periods of simmering anxiety as they idly wait for a shortage in raw materials to subside. West of the Tracks offers one of the most affecting and thorough looks at the effects of deindustrialization and the advent of the free market on China’s economy, and its first section is a powerful snapshot of the radically changing nature of work in the 21st century.

West of the Tracks, Part 2: Remnants
Wang Bing, China, 2003, 178m
Mandarin with English subtitles
The second part of West of the Tracks is devoted to the proletarian families of the state-owned housing block known as Rainbow Row, particularly their teenage children. Wang sensitively chronicles these families’ efforts to cope with the rapidly changing circumstances of their lives, from the shifting role of work within their everyday existence to their all-but-certain displacement in the face of factory closures throughout Tiexi. A rich, humanist portrait of the quotidian repercussions of fluctuations in the global economy, West of the Tracks’ second section is a captivating immersion in the daily lives of society’s most vulnerable elements and a stark reminder of all that is lost to the violent churning of capitalism.

West of the Tracks, Part 3: Rails
Wang Bing, China, 2003, 132m
Mandarin with English subtitles
Narrowing its focus, the final part of West of the Tracks follows a coal-scavenger father and his son, who make a living collecting raw parts from the local railyards and selling them to Tiexi’s dwindling factories. Like that of the factory workers, their future has also been rendered anxiously uncertain by the deindustrialization of 21st-century capitalism, and Wang captures their resilience and resourcefulness amid a decaying local economy and the omnipresent threat of eviction from their home. As with its two preceding parts, the conclusion of West of the Tracks is a critical, intensely moving chronicle of survival in an age when the very concept of work is in crisis.

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