In Mandarin with English subtitles, 2015, 105 min, digital
Distributed by Kino Lorber.
The result of a seemingly counter-intuitive pairing of veteran Brazilian director Walter Salles (CENTRAL STATION, ON THE ROAD) and Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke, JIA ZHANGKE, A GUY FROM FENYANG is an unusually fine documentary portrait. Jia began his filmmaking career in the mid-1990s, immediately establishing his immense talent with his astonishing feature debut, XIAO WU, and its even more ambitious and monumental follow-up, PLATFORM, which remains one of the great films of the 2000s. And he has since delivered on this youthful promise, making a series of features, documentaries, and short films over the past 15 years that have established him as the foremost chronicler of a society undergoing immense and often brutal transformations.
In A GUY FROM FENYANG, Salles accompanies Jia as he returns to his birthplace, the Shanxi province in Northern China, and to the locations of his films. Documenting encounters between Jia and his actors, friends, and collaborators, Salles gradually constructs a multi-layered portrait of the artist. By filming Jia against the backdrop of the streets and locations that he has known so intimately throughout his life, Salles succeeds not only in creating something far more cinematic than most talking-head documentaries, but in illuminating dimensions of Jia’s personality that would otherwise remain hidden and capturing something of the complex relation between the director and his environment. Combining copious interview footage and well-chosen excerpts from Jia’s films, A GUY FROM FENYANG is a deceptively casual, ultimately elegant film that reveals a great deal about Jia, his work, and his society.
“Auteur portraits of fellow auteurs don’t always make for illuminating films: the line between sincere mutual appreciation and smug mutual congratulation can be a fine one. Salles, however, gets the balance just about right in A GUY FROM FENYANG, an intelligent, restrained but warmly intimate cinematic conversation with the Sixth Generation Chinese trailblazer.” –Guy Lodge, VARIETY
Alongside A GUY FROM FENYANG, we’ll be screening several of Jia’s own films; click here for more details.