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Bonus Content: Rental includes an 18-minute conversation with Jia Zhang-ke from the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. (Mandarin, with English and Chinese subtitles.) Scroll down to watch.
Jia Zhang-ke’s latest traces the history of contemporary China through the lives and writings of four of the country’s prolific literary figures.
“An ode to the importance of art that is a work of art itself, Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue is yet another fascinating look at contemporary China courtesy of Jia Zhangke.” –Lee Jutton, Film Inquiry
In May 2019, a large number of prominent Chinese writers and scholars gathered in a village in China’s Shanxi Province — which happens to be director Jia Zhang-ke’s native province. Images from this literary event open Jia’s latest work, an 18-chapter “symphony” that follows a quasi-musical structure classic Chinese novels have often used. The story is told through memories of the late writer-activist Ma Feng and the testimonies of three major writers still active today: Jia Pingwa, who was born in the 1950s; Yu Hua, born in the 1960s; and Liang Hong, born in the ’70s. As these writers recount their own lives and literary careers, Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue weaves a 70-year spiritual history of Chinese society.
It’s been nearly 10 years since Jia’s last documentary, I Wish I Knew. Since then, he’s directed the narrative features Ash Is Purest White, Mountains May Depart, and A Touch of Sin, all of which played the Festival. The director returns to non-fiction with this final panel in his trilogy about the arts in China, following Dong (2006) and Useless (2007).