Self-Portrait: Window in 47 KM
CHINA / 2019 / Chinese (Hubei Dialect) / Color / Digital File / 110 min
Director, Photography, Editing, Sound: Zhang Mengqi
Appearances: Fang Hong, Li Guiting
Producer: Zhang Yan
Production Company: Caochangdi Workstation
Source: Zhang Mengqi
The small mountain village in China where the director has long shot her films. On the wall of a hut overlooking the village are written the words, faded with time, “. . . ism will save China”—just what “ism” is not specified. When the director asks a young girl what she thinks of the missing part, she replies, “Why would we need to save the country? We’re not even at war.” An eighty-five-year-old man recounts the story of his life, while the girl draws portrait after portrait of the village elderly. This film is not merely a record of how those advancing into old age personify the inevitable vanishing of memory or how the land whispers of history and economic decline: at the end of the harsh winter, this little village literally comes alive with color.
[Director’s Statement] This is the eighth film in my documentary series “47 km.”
An eighty-five-year-old man sits under Mao Zedong’s portrait and, as the sun sets, recalls his revolutionary history in pursuit of “New China.”
Meanwhile, a fifteen-year-old girl named Fanghong walks through the village with her paintbrush, knocking on the doors of elders’ dark rooms, sitting before them to draw their portraits. She’s like a ray of light illuminating their memories and ruins.
I followed Fanghong, and together we built a window for 47 km village.
Zhang Mengqi was born in 1987. She graduated from the Dance Academy of Minzu University of China in 2008. Since 2009, she has been a resident filmmaker and choreographer at Caochangdi Workstation in Beijing. She has made nine feature-length documentaries, mostly filmed in her father’s village in Hubei Province, known as her “Self-portrait series”: Self-Portrait with Three Women (2010, YIDFF 2011), Self-Portrait: At 47KM (2011, Cinéma du Réel 2012), Self-Portrait: Dancing at 47KM (2012, Cinéma du Réel 2013), Self-Portrait: Dreaming at 47KM (2013), Self-Portrait: Building a Bridge at 47KM (2014), Self-Portrait: Dying at 47KM (2015), Self Portrait: Birth in 47 KM (2016, YIDFF 2017), Self-Portrait: Sphinx in 47 KM (2017, Visions du Réel, DMZ Docs “White Goose Award” 2018), Self-Portrait: Window in 47 KM (2019).