Great Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-ke's documentary companion piece to his latest feature, Still Life (also in Festival), captures the life and monumental canvases of artist Liu Xiao-dong.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2007
Dong is the great Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-ke’s documentary companion piece to his latest feature, Still Life (also in the Festival). Dong is the nickname of the artist Liu Xiao-dong, who has come to Fengjie on the Yangtze – one of the towns scheduled to be engulfed by the Three Gorges Dam – to paint a massive multi-panel work depicting demolition workers against their vanishing landscape. Liu is one of the artists (Jia, in Still Life, is another) concerned with capturing this world before it disappears. Liu explains a little about his philosophy and approach, but most of the time we simply stand back and observe the artist at work, or interacting with the locals. The second half of the film finds Liu in Bangkok, working on a similarly monumental canvas also depicting workers (models this time) in their environment. The unforced, objective style of Jia’s features, which brought a new kind of realism to Chinese cinema, is also present here. Although Liu is the focus of the film, Jia’s open style allows the world in which he works to come crowding into the frame and onto the soundtrack. — Andrew Langridge