Films byTexts by Wang Bing
Conversation NL EN

Fictie is overal. De vraag is: waar situeren we het beginpunt van fictie? Welke schikking zorgt ervoor dat er iets gebeurt? In zekere zin kunnen we zeggen dat er sprake is van fictie zodra een soort narratief ons vertelt of laat zien dat er iets gebeurt. Daarom ben ik in mijn recente werk vooral geïnteresseerd in het verkennen van de grenzen van fictie, de grens tussen ‘er gebeurt niets’ en ‘er gebeurt iets’. 

Wang Bing, 2018, 495’

“Since I began researching the history of Jiabiangou State Farm in 2004, I have met and interviewed nearly one hundred survivors of Jiabiangou.

Article EN
Wang Bing 2012
Translated by

“When making a documentary film about events that happened nearly sixty years ago, an oral history format is an easy choice, but I have deliberately chosen not to take this approach. Instead I hope to show, through the lives of the Jiabiangou survivors, how the present speaks to the past.” Wang Bing wrote this text in 2012 as a treatment for the movie Past in the Present (2018). Later, the name was changed into Dead Souls.


Vertical cinema, films that walk. Horizontal cinema, films that are recumbent. Between them is a time outside time, the same duration alien to the laws of work, of reason and of health. How, and until when, can a life be extended once it seems to have left itself behind? What virtual actions remain latent within what appears to be the most complete inaction? From indefatigable walking to the fatigue of the recumbent, the spectacular reversal of postures is also accompanied by a shared perseverance: Wang Bing’s gesture consists in disengaging from the core of exhaustion the ultimate fragments of the possible.


Cinéma vertical, films qui marchent. Cinéma horizontal, films qui gisent. Des uns aux autres s’ouvrent le même temps, la même durée étrangère aux lois du travail, de la raison et de la santé. Comment, et jusqu’à quand, une vie peut-elle se prolonger, à partir du moment où elle semble comme sortie d’elle-même ? De quelles virtualités d’action l’inaction a priori la plus complète est encore grosse ? De l’infatigable marche à la fatigue des gisants, s’il y a un spectaculaire bouleversement des postures, se développe aussi une commune persévérance : le geste de Wang Bing dégage d’ultimes fragments de possible du cœur de l’épuisement.


In het midden van de film gebeurt er iets geniaals, waardoor we uit Fengmings verhaal naar het heden worden gesleurd. Op een bepaald moment onderbreekt Wang haar om te vragen of het licht eventueel aan zou mogen. Het gesprek begon in de vooravond en zonder dat we het als kijker echt beseffen, is Fengming ondertussen volledig in het duister gehuld. Haar ‘heden’ is verdwenen.


Wang Bings werk echoot Johan van der Keukens gedachte dat cinema “alles kan zijn, maar niets IS, behalve een oog en een oor.” Dus in de eerste plaats wandelen, de ogen en oren openen met arme middelen, waarin Wang Bing zowel genereus aandacht geeft als streng aandacht eist. “Ik kijk en luister hier en nu: kijk en luister!”

note EN

On the occasion of the Wang Bing focus program at the Courtisane festival and the subsequent program at CINEMATEK, Sabzian, Courtisane and CINEMATEK compiled, edited and published this modest publication on Wang Bing. This publication aims to trace Wang Bing’s trajectory by way of a series of writings and interviews that were published between 2009 and 2017.


Wang Bing’s film is at once epic and intimate – epic because of the sheer scale of the constructions, and the long, straight railroad tracking shots Wang employs to render its geography; intimate because of its focus on the daily life of the last workers and the soon-to-be displaced. Wang’s film is not journalistic in that it does not show us, for example, the bureaucrats who made the various life-altering decisions, and it doesn’t show the rest of Shenyang – the bourgeois neighborhoods, shops, hotels, highways.

Bitter Money
Wang Bing, 2016, 152’

Film Comment: What’s your next move?

Wang Bing: Traveling, shooting, editing, more traveling, more shooting, more editing. [...]

Wang Bing, 2017, 86’

“Fang Xiuying is the mother of a good friend of mine. I was going to make a documentary about her in 2015, but it was postponed because I was too busy at the time. In 2016, the friend called to tell me that her mother’s illness had grown severe, and she might not live very long.

Fengming: A Chinese Memoir
Wang Bing, 2007, 186’

“The American poet Muriel Rukeyser asked, ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?’; her answer: ‘The world would split open.’ The tragic extremes of Fengming’s biography seem to demand such a cosmic response, or at least some physical manifestation or visual correlative ons

Three Sisters
Wang Bing, 2012, 153’

New Left Review: How did you meet the three little sisters there? As your film shows, they are living mainly by themselves, without parents to take care of them.

West of the Tracks
Wang Bing, 2002, 551’

“Without question the greatest work to have come out of the Chinese documentary movement, and must be ranked among the most extraordinary achievements of world cinema in the new century.”

Wang Bing, 2016, 148’

“Cinema can’t get more iconic than this, as the Ta’ang, made itinerant by war, create shelter with whatever they can find, which usually means sticks and stones. Wang watches as a group tries to build a frame for a tarpaulin roof with bamboo poles scavenged from what grows along the road.

Conversation NL EN

“Fiction is everywhere. The question is: where do we situate the starting point of fiction? What kind of arrangement makes something happen? In a way, we can say there is fiction whenever there is some kind of narrative that tells, or shows, us that something is happening. That’s why, in my recent work, I have mostly been interested in exploring the edges of fiction, the edge between nothing happens and something happens.”

Conversation NL

“Een psychiatrisch ziekenhuis is, op zich, geen origineel thema. Het verhaal van Feng ai [’Til Madness Do Us Part] had zich zeker ook elders kunnen afspelen. Het is een alledaags verhaal. Toch is geestesziekte natuurlijk een interessant onderwerp, met name in China. Geestesziekte bevrijdt de mens, in zekere zin, want ze bevrijdt hem van het juk van de wet. Tegelijkertijd maakt ze hem kwetsbaarder … [...] Het leven dat men buiten een inrichting waarneemt is in wezen niet zo verschillend van het leven dat men binnen kan waarnemen. Wat me interesseerde was minder het ziekenhuis dan de patiënten en het leven dat ze er leidden. Zij beschouwen die plek niet als een ziekenhuis maar als een plaats waar ze leven. [...] Het is hun huis. Ze leven er alsof ze thuis zijn, sommigen blijven er zelfs tot hun dood. Ik was al vroeg getroffen door de indruk dat in veel opzichten er meer menselijkheid binnen dan buiten het ziekenhuis was.”

Conversation EN

“I don’t usually worry about whether the audience will accept the way my film is designed. You are the filmmaker; it is your job to make a convincing work. Instead of worrying about the audience, you should search for ways to make your film a good one. To me, it means to look for, or create, a potentially better cinema that fits your needs in making this particular work. At the same time, your film must be capable of accommodating the living reality of its subject. [...] The technique and style you choose for a film should be appropriate to your subject matter. What is really important is to establish a relation between the subject of your film and your audience. It is the camera that creates this connection.”