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Self Portrait: Sphinx in 47 KM

Zhang Mengqi
Zi Hua Xiang: 47 Gong Li Si Fen Ke Si
China 2018 / 94’
Rough Remote Rumble The Taste of Crème Brûlée

A self-portrait against the background of an ongoing disaster. 47KM is not a secret code but rather the colloquial name used for the village of Diaoyutai—47 being the number of kilometers separating it from the nearest major city. And from a better life, hope for social advancement and illusory opportunities—a magical distance that appears to demarcate the boundary between winners and losers. Independent director Zhang Mengqi has chosen a different path from that of most young people. For several years now, she has been returning—camera in hand—to her homeland in the provinces to portray a China abandoned and forgotten. The ghostlike village in which her father was born resembles a scene from a film about a post-apocalyptic world. A partially erased propaganda slogan inscribed on one of the buildings—"Only … ism will save China” seems like a cruel joke. Old men and children roam around like ghosts amid idle land and collapsing houses. For some, it’s too late; for others, too early. Everyone is waiting for something to happen, but there are no longer any “isms” that can offer an answer. By combining the personal accounts of residents with scenes on the border of a dreamworld, Zhang creates an aura of unreality—like something out of a persistent nightmare in which we are witnesses to a disaster that is difficult to name.

Mariusz Mikliński

Zhang Mengqi

Zhang Mengqi is an independent director who was born in 1987 in Suizhou, in China’s Hubei province. She graduated from a dance academy in 1987 and is still an active dancer. In Beijing, she joined the Caochangdi Workstation, a dance and theater collective founded by filmmaker Wu Wenguang and choreographer Wen Hui. In video clips that combine documentary with performance art, Zhang returns to her father’s family village, Diaoyutai, to show life in the provinces. Her films have been presented in Montreal and at the Cinéma du Réel in Paris, among other festivals.


2010 Self-Portrait with Three Women

2017 Self-Portrait: Birth in 47KM

2018 Autoportret: sfinks w 47 KM / Zi Hua Xiang: 47 Gong Li Si Fen Ke Si / Self Portrait: Sphinx in 47 KM

Cast & Crew

director Zhang Mengqi
screenplay Zhang Mengqi
cinematography Zhang Mengqi
editing Zhang Mengqi
producer Wu Wenguang
production Caochangdi Workstation
sales Zhang Mengqi
language Mandarin
colouration colour