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

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).