WANG Bing, Frederick WISEMAN, Kazuo HARA & Raymond DEPARDON, SIFF Presents Another Buzz Documentary
The Documentary Panorama is an important program at the Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF), for it is a window for the viewers to touch upon excellent documentary works. At the 21st Shanghai International Film Festival, works by five noted documentary masters have been prepared for the audience in the documentary screening unit. As each film will welcome its Chinese premiere at the time, it is an absolutely rare opportunity for us to appreciate these prestigious works on the big screen.
What included in today’s first screening list are all new works produced by the major names in the circle of documentary cinema, such as MRS. FANG by WANG Bing, the Chinese director with international influence (Winner of Golden Leopard, 70th Locarno International Film Festival); the famous documentary filmmaker Frederick WISEMAN's EX LIBRIS: NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY (Nomination for Golden Lion, 74th Venice Film Festival); SENNAN ASBESTOS DISASTER, a ten-year work by the Japanese director Kazuo HARA (winner of BIFF Mecenat Award, 22nd Busan International Film Festival); famous French photographer and director Raymond DEPARDON’s 12 DAYS (Nominee for Best Documentary Film, 43rd César Awards, France); and JANE, a production by the American director Brett MORGEN to present the zoologist Jean GOODALL in her early studies on chimpanzees (Nomination for Best Documentary, 71st BAFTA Film Awards).
Directed by: WANG Bing
Country/ Region: France/ China/ Germany
The film captured the last ten days of the life of an ordinary Chinese woman, Fang Xiuying, who died of Alzheimer's afterwards. In the camera of the director WANG Bing, Fang Xiuying is no longer able to speak, lying on the bed in a rural area of Zhejiang province. However, her eyes are always wide open, showing certain vitality. Her frail, sluggish face and body is the main part of the film. Besides that, the director also recorded the behaviors of her relatives and friends during this period. They stand or sit around Fang Xiuying, massaging her body, greeting her and asking her loudly: “Do you still know me?” After a while, a reply breaks the silence: “(Fang Xiuying) is like a boat drifting on the river, now slowly sinking.” There is no pain from parting forever, but the helplessness of knowing the death will eventually come.
MRS. FANG is a “prose depicting the solemnity of death in a calm and light manner.” According to out former understanding, death may be just an instant, but in this documentary, death seems to be rendered a process, which allows one to stare at, while wait. WANG Bing intends to let the audience experience life at its utmost through a true death, and restore their respect for the nature of life in human genes.
The film won the Golden Leopard Award at the Locarno International Film Festival last year, as the first documentary to grasp the highest honor in the history of the festival.
Ex Libris: New York Public Library
Directed by: Frederick WISEMAN
Country/ Region: USA
In his new work, the famous documentary master Frederick WISEMAN has explored each and every brick of the New York Public Library, from which one can feel the breath of the New York City citizens, as well as the city. The film records the events taking place in the space: borrowing inquiries, public services, lectures and workshops on public issues, social activities designed to help the poor and the disabled, and free trainings for the widespread use of computers for the poor and children. In this grand yet simple building, numerous open-minded people thirst for knowledge come and go, regardless of profession or class. You can even see the tourists taking selfies there. In this landmark of high cultural concentration, the director outlines the cultural development of contemporary America, as well as the full scene of its politics, economy and humanity, leading people to endless reflection. It is also enlightening to every Chinese audience in the context of public cultural construction.
The film entered the main competition of the 74th Venice Film Festival and won the title of Best Non-Fiction Film at the 52nd National Society of Film Critics Awards.
Sennan Asbestos Disaster
Directed by: Kazuo HARA
Country/ Region: Japan
The film is a new work by the famous Japanese director Kazuo HARA after more than two decades. It is a complete record of the confrontation between the weak public and the powerful authority in Sennan, Osaka spanning for eight years. In the late Meiji period, the asbestos industry was flourishing there. With its excellent performance, asbestos was widely used in building materials and industrial production. However, asbestos is very harmful to human bodies. The inhalation may cause severe illness such as lung cancer.
At that time, given the economic benefits brought by asbestos, the local government did not tell its people the truth, resulting in the death of a large number of workers. Some of the indignant workers, their families and enthusiasts worked together to take the government to court, asking the government to confess and pay compensation. The difficulty is beyond the imagination of many people. Many patients had never seen the victory, passing away in desperation and unwillingness one after another...
Directed by: Raymond DEPARDON
Country/ Region: France
Not all directors are good photographers, but most of the directors who can take good photos will not disappoint the audience. Raymond DEPARDON, who produced this documentary, is both a great photographer and a well-known documentary filmmaker. Either photography or documentary, his work is always embodied with his concern and reflection on social issues.
This time, his new work 12 DAYS puts some of the patients in a mental hospital in Lyon, France in spotlight, showing their true experiences in 12 days. The reason why “12 days” is highlighted here is because of French’s newly adopted Psychotherapy Act in 2013. By the Act, anyone admitted into the hospital without their consent must be seen by a judge within 12 days. That judge must decide whether these psychiatric hospital patients can be allowed back into society. The film consists of over ten trials, interspersed with shots of the mental institution and patients. The camera listens quietly, allowing those vulnerable souls to have a chance to tell their own stories. Even after 12 days, everything may return to silence again.
Directed by: Brett MORGEN
Country/ Region: USA
The protagonist of the film is Jane GOODALL, a zoologist with high reputation across the world. She went to Africa's virgin forest in her twenties and spent thirty eight years there in the wild to observe chimpanzees. Afterwards, she regularly travels around the world, calling on people to protect wildlife and the globe.
The director Brett MORGEN is particularly good at character themes. She selected materials from the unpublished footages of over 100 hours recording Jane GOODALL’s field trips and interviews, and then made edition. From the first-person perspective, she tells the story about Jane studying chimpanzees in Africa in her young age. Along with the fascinating soundtrack by Philip GLASS, the audience get to know how a woman changed the world with passion, dedication and perseverance in the era when field research was still dominated by men. The film also further tightens the relationship between man and nature by intertwining the fate of humans with that of animals.