The preeminent cinematic chronicler of 21st-century China, Jia Zhangke turns his sights to the more distant past in his surprising, complexly wrought new documentary, Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue.

In Shanxi province, where Jia grew up, the filmmaker gathers three prominent authors—Jia Pingwa, Yu Hua, and Liang Hong—and evokes the legacy of the late writer Ma Feng, to create a tapestry of testimonies about the drastic changes in Chinese life and culture that began with the social revolution of the ’50s. In 18 chapters, interspersed with evocative, impressionistic interludes, Jia tells a wide-ranging, discursive story that touches upon movements in literature, the experiences of farmers and intellectuals, and urban versus rural living, and functions as a reminder of the essential power of verbally passing down history to future generations.

Ahead of its opening at Film at Lincoln Center theaters this Friday, watch an exclusive clip from the film (courtesy of Cinema Guild) above, featuring a train-car full of young adults buried in their phones, addictively transfixed by the allure of their screens and captured in a way that only Jia can.

The NYFF58 favorite, Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue opens May 28 at Film at Lincoln Center and tickets are now on sale. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos like this!