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A Yangtze Landscape

Xu Xin
China 2017 / 156’
Knife in the Clear Water

Xu Xin uses the Yangtze River-the horizontal backbone of the China, the longest river in Asia, the so-called Mother River-to discuss Chinese history and modern times. Static shots of the banks of the river emerge from the fog and smog, as viewed from the deck of a barge on a majestic voyage. Our journey begins amid the shimmering lights and propaganda slogans of Shanghai and ends in the eternal silence of the far reaches of Tibet. The highly detailed black-and-white images are accompanied from time to time by text informing viewers about the number of victims of wars, conflicts, accidents and suicides that occurred at a given point on the map-history told through death. China is a country covered in a gray shroud from which black-wrapped figures appear here and there. Views from the barge are juxtaposed with portraits of people who have been forgotten or uprooted as a result of the changes that have taken place in recent decades: vagabonds, the homeless, the elderly, the sick, the wounded, the abandoned. Their biographies are written more in the lines of wrinkles on their faces, in the distant gaze of their absent eyes than in the director's commentary. Xu Xin presents in his film apocalyptic vision of exclusion from modernity and from a world that has become deformed.

Agnieszka Szeffel

Xu Xin

Xu Xin was born in the Taizhou, Jiangsu Province in 1966. He is an independent documentary filmmaker based in Beijing and Nanjing. In his early years, he experimented with oil paintings and photography. His documentaries focus on marginalized communities in China. His film Karamay, at an astounding running time of six hours, was “an astonishing achievement on every level” that “any future book on documentary film history will have to mark a place of honor for”(Variety). His latest documentary is A Yangtze Landscape (2017).


2010 Karamay

2011 Dao lu / Pathway

2016 Krajobraz Jangcy / Changjiang / A Yangtze Landscape

Cast & Crew

director Xu Xin
screenplay Xu Xin
cinematography Xu Xin
editing Xu Xin
producer Xu Xin
production Xu Xin Documentary Film Studios
sales Xu Xin
language Mandarin
colouration b&w