青春Directed by Wang Bing
Official Selection, 2023 Cannes Film Festival
Official Selection, 2023 Busan International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2023 New York Film Festival
20 years after Wang Bing’s monumental, 9½ hour West of the Tracks introduced the world to the most committed chronicler of 21st century China, the master documentarian of Ta’ang (SDAFF ‘16) and Dead Souls (SDAFF ‘18) announces another magnum opus to brush the ten-hour mark: a trilogy of films about the young people who make annual migrations to the factory town of Zhili. Following the college-aged workers over five years, Wang Bing and his team became regular fixtures in their lives, stationing in factories that also serve as dormitories, collecting 2,600 hours of footage.
This year brings part one, the 3-hour YOUTH (SPRING), a window into the spirited, frisky young men and women who sew kids’ clothes while blaring pop songs, dishing jokes, flirting endlessly, and speaking up about insufficient wages. Unlike the colossal sweatshops common in western documentaries about the dehumanization of Chinese labor, the factories here are small, privately-owned businesses more resembling densely-packed office spaces, inviting an uncommon warmth and familiarity. The teenagers aren’t ants in extreme long shots, but expressive faces and bodies at work and play. Their lives aren’t aestheticized, sensationalized, or mined for drama. For Wang Bing, our emotional engagement is the accumulation of time spent in the rhythm of their banter, the restless energy of their aspirations, and the constant clanking of their sewing machines. By the end of SPRING, a season in their lives feels as familiar as the air, and as the workers head back to their hometowns, we anxiously await the next installment.
– Brian Hu