Wang Bing’s epic nine-hour film is a powerful, and masterfully-composed record of the fall-out of China’s transition from state-run industry to a free market at the turn of the millennium. Shot between 1999 and 2001, the film observes the lives of the last factory workers of the Tie Xi industrial district in the city of Shenyang, in northeast China, once the epitome of a booming socialist economy. Structured into three parts, the film gradually shifts focus from the decaying factories to the loss of homes and social support to a father and son struggling to survive.
Part 1, Rust, takes us into the dense fog of the run-down factories where the few remaining workers can be heard discussing unpaid wages, disappearing pensions and inevitable layoffs on their breaks, while others receive treatment for lead poisoning. Part 2, Remnants, focuses on a group of teenagers – their hopes, fears, joys and survival strategies – as their community faces imminent demolition. Part 3, Rails, witnesses the resourcefulness and dedication of a father and son who survive off scraps of coal stolen from freight trains headed to the factories.
12.10 Rust, 2003, DCP, colour, sound, 240 min, Mandarin with English subtitles
16.25 Remnants, 2003, DCP, colour, sound, 176 min, Mandarin with English subtitles
19.40 Rails, 2003, DCP, colour, sound, 135 min, Mandarin with English subtitles
The Wang Bing: Traces series is programmed in parallel with the UK premiere of Dead Souls at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 27-28 November 2018.