CHINA / 2019 / Chinese / Color, B&W / Digital File / 120 min
Directors: Wang Chuyu, Xu Ruotao
Photography: Chen Bo, Dan Ningsuan, Feng Bo
Editing: Wen Chenghao, Huang Jingkun
Producer: Feng Bo
Source: Xu Ruotao
Former workers of China Telecom, who were abruptly dismissed without reason, sue the company over workers’ rights, and fight together alongside an artist group. The giant poster of the workers holding steamed buns in their mouths that appears at the start of the film has a considerable impact. The artists become agitators, and the workers, who initially listened to them with reserved expressions, in turn come to cooperate with them in their performances, holding protests while chained to one another, and climbing up telephone poles. The circumstances of each worker are introduced, along with scenes of heated and direct negotiations with the company president. In the final portion of the film, they are filmed introducing themselves, all naked above the waist.
[Director’s Statement] Wang Chuyu I became involved in defending the rights of the China Telecom workers because I wanted to experiment with performance art as a form of social intervention. When the act of taking the performance to the streets failed, I looked to using a documentary film to drive progress on this issue. My idea was to integrate performance art footage into calculated framing. This idea led me to think of Xu Ruotao, who is known for his experimental films. The process involved the fifty-six China Telecom workers, around twenty artists, and a lawyer.
I once told the workers, “If you win, art won’t win; and if you lose, art won’t lose.” In a society where journalists and human rights lawyers are forcibly excluded from the public’s eye, the question that arises from the confluence of artists and human rights is not whether it gives an effective result, but an existential question of whether art should have a place in our society. In other words, participation in social movements could be seen as a form of self-help by artists and the art.
Xu Ruotao I was excited but hesitant at the same time when Wang Chuyu invited me to join him in this project, because it gave me the chance to film a large group of workers, and it also gave me great visual expectations for this film. Wang, who has long been involved with workers’ human rights, skillfully employed the physicality of the workers in the streets. Although I did not join in the filming process from the start, it was fortunate that the artists in us saved our creative work with plenty of inspiration and open-mindedness.
Performance artist, curator. Born in 1974 in Shaanxi, China. He began his artistic creations in Beijing in 1994. A founder of the GUYU ACTION Performance Art Festival, he took an active role in curating the first ten annual events from 2007 to 2016. In 2016, he founded the Qian Xing She (stealth art) performance art organization.
Visual artist, filmmaker. Born in 1968 in Shenyang, Liaoning Province. His debut experimental feature film Rumination (2010), was nominated for the Dragon and Tiger Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival 2010. Experimental films and documentaries that followed included Yumen (2013) and Expressionism (2017).