DONG

Directed by Jia Zhang-ke

Open Prize, Orizzonti, 2006 Venice Film Festival

DONG double-times as part of Jia Zhang-ke’s Artist trilogy and as a fascinating companion piece to Jia’s monumental Still Life, which was shot at the same time with overlapping characters and scenes. DONG joins friend and artist Liu Xiaodong, “painting from life” a group of near-naked laborers in Fengjie who are demolishing their hometown in the midst of a large scale flooding engineered by the Three Gorges Dam project. As painting transforms them into languorous models for enormous tableaux, DONG poses Jia’s defining question: what does it mean to be an artist for a disappearing world? Almost as response, DONG follows Liu to Thailand where he paints sex workers, while Jia wanders after another character, letting his cinematic free verse test the waters for blending narrative into documentary as effortlessly as paint on a canvas. 

Christina Ree

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