Jia Zhang-Ke’s film Dong is a documentary that records the painting process when painter Liu Xiaodong put eleven Sanxia Dam construction workers on canvass. With the picturesque landscape in the background, in a place where villages were being sunk due to the dam construction and buildings were destroyed every day, Liu Xiaodong painted the construction workers in order to capture the dynamics of the human body while constricting himself in a small space. But the shock of an accident in which a wall of the construction site fell down and crushed one worker to death forces him to stop his project. Liu then heads to Bangkok, carrying in his heart the question of how to make reality and art meet. As a documentary, Dong may look as if it omits many stories. However, connecting Dong with Still Life gives the former much more meaning. Through this work with the workers of Sanxia, Jia Zhang-Ke seems to have realized that what connects a person’s interior with the outer world is the body itself. His previous works such as Xiao Wu, Platform, or The World followed the characters to the end, but did not give the impression of their bodies. If Still Life feels like a film of a sweating, working body instead of a film that gazes at the scenery, it is certainly because the director also created Dong. What Jia questions in Dong is no less than the position of the intellectuals in the world.
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