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The preeminent cinematic chronicler of 21st-century China, Jia Zhangke (last seen at NYFF two years ago with his masterful Ash Is Purest White) turns his sights to the more distant past in his surprising, complexly wrought new documentary. 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.

Watch the Q&A below.

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