CHINA / 2016 / Chinese (Hubei Dialect) / Color / DCP / 181 min
Director, Editing: Zhu Shengze
Photography: Yang Zhengfan
Sound: Ou Dejian
Production Company: Burn The Film Production House
World Sales: Torch Films
A staggering three hours depicting a migrant worker’s family in China at dinner, divided into thirteen chapters. A static camera shows the family’s frank table conversation in long takes. Through these extracts, the audience witnesses how ordinary everyday affairs may be transformed into picturesque spaces, beautiful and mysterious, at the least expected moment. This family of three generations continues their life back and forth between their mountain village home and rented city house. Documenting the passing of a year in time, various problems confronting the family give us glimpses of the rapid pace of China’s extreme urbanization and the social realities of its remarkable economic growth.
[Director’s Statement] How does a person change little by little throughout a year? How is one’s life shaped by the trivial things and subtle moments that one experiences? The idea behind making Another Year was to examine the accumulated power of mundane happenings, and to reveal how the mundane might appear mysterious and beautiful with the passage of time.
I first met this migrant worker’s family in the summer of 2002 in Wuhan. I was acutely shocked by their situation: the six family members (three generations) shared one cramped room (about 200 square feet), with no privacy at all. This room functioned as their bedroom, living room and dining room, and the elder daughter sometimes did her homework on the bed. I also noticed that there was a lot of friction around the dinner table, yet what captivated me most were their rambling conversations, facial expressions, gestures, and family dynamics. I realized that it was this subtle accrual of details that evinced their presence. Thus, I decided to make a film that solely captures them at dinner.
Beginning around Chinese New Year and ending at Chu Xi (Chinese New Year’s Eve), all the meals unfold in real-time, through static long takes, which, in turn, reveal the rhythm of a family’s life on the margins of urban society. Due to their low household income and the household registration system in China (hukou), the life of this family is among the most unstable and vulnerable. They were forced apart after the grandma’s stroke—the mother had to return to their village to take care of her because she had no access to urban healthcare—and the elder daughter was asked to quit school and find a job to support her family, despite her young age… For them, “another year” means future and hope, but still, there are also problems that cannot be solved, and there are pains that cannot be alleviated.
Zhu Shengze was born in 1987, in Wuhan, China. After starting out as a photographer, she co-founded Burn The Film Production House in 2010 with Yang Zhengfan, and has worked as cinematographer and producer on Yang’s films, including Distant (2013) and Where Are You Going (2016). Shengze’s directorial debut Out of Focus (2014), based on a participatory photo workshop with migrant children, premiered at the 2014 Cinéma du Réel International Documentary Film Festival in France. Another Year (2016) is her second feature documentary. Premiering at the Visions du Réel International Film Festival in Switzerland, it received the Sesterce d’or prize for best full-length feature in the International Competition, and also won the Grand Prize at the Montreal International Film Festival (RIDM). The film has additionally been honored as one of the top ten best films of 2016 by Canada’s 24 Images Magazine.