Swimming Out till the Sea Turns Blue- -
Filmmaker Jia Zhangke chronicles his local literature festival in Shanxi, China which includes a multi-generational roster of the country's most esteemed writers. Prominent Chinese writers and scholars gather in a village in Shanxi, a province of China and the hometown of Jia Zhang-Ke. This starts an 18-chapter symphony about Chinese society since 1949. Narrated by three important novelists born in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s respectively, telling their own stories with literature and reality, the film weaves a 70-year spiritual history of the Chinese people.
Filmmaker Jia Zhangke chronicles his local literature festival in Shanxi, China which includes a multi-generational roster of the country’s most esteemed writers.
Swimming Out till the Sea Turns Blue Movie trailer
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 Jia Zhang-ke’s native province. Images from this literary event open an 18-chapter ‘symphony’ which spans the history of Chinese society since 1949. The story is told through memories of the late writer-activist Ma Feng and the testimonies of three major writers who are active today: Jia Pingwa (born in the 1950s), Yu Hua (born in the 1960s) and Liang Hong (born in the 1970s). These writers recount their own lives and literary careers, which allows the film to weave a 70-year spiritual history of the Chinese people.
Ten years after his last documentary I Wish I Knew (screened in Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2011) Jia Zhang-ke returns to non-fiction with Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue, the final panel in his trilogy about the arts in China. It follows Venice winners Dong (2006), and Useless (2007).
WORDS FROM THE DIRECTOR
After making Dong (2006, about the painter Liu Xiaodong) and Useless (2007, about the fashion designer Ma Ke), I wanted to make a documentary about Chinese writers. It is not that I have a thing about trilogies. It’s more that as a reader, I’ve always had great respect for the writers who strive to keep abreast of the fast-changing world, sometimes under extremely difficult circumstances. When I discovered that a village in my native province Shanxi was host to a major literary festival, I wanted to see it for myself. (The place is named Jia Family Village, but it has no direct connection with my own family.) Our starting point was to film at the festival, and we soon realized that we were experiencing not only a journey in contemporary Chinese literature but also a journey into the spiritual history of the Chinese people. Beyond the literary talk, an unexpected new protagonist for the film somehow appeared: the peasantry who inhabit China’s vast hinterlands. The writers in the film tell their own stories, the kind of stories that weigh on the minds of most Chinese people. I wanted the images to look dignified, almost sculptural, and the 18 chapters to be structured as casually as flowing clouds. The people in this country are living lives like rivers leading to the sea, travelling with heavy loads, towards somewhere blue and clear in the distance. Their journeys are very similar, but each footprint deserves to be remembered.