At first sight, Dong is a documentary about the work and approach of painter Liu Xiaodong, who is one of the so-called ‘cynical realists’. Jia Zhang-ke travels with Liu, by now one of China's best-known artists, to Sichuan where the rising Yangtze River is submerging whole regions. ‘Dong’ is not only Chinese for ‘East’ and hence refers to Asia, it is also Liu's nickname. Since his leading role in Wang Xiao-shuai’s The Days (1993), Liu has been linked to the Chinese independent film. He was also briefly seen in Jia’s The World.
In the region of the Three Gorges Dam, we see Liu paint one of his monumental works. In this case an enormous canvas of a group of almost naked workers on a platform, against the background of the river. They are the same men as the demolition workers in Still Life (see that film), including ‘actor’ Han San-ming. Several scenes from Still Life, which look like fiction there, also make an appearance here. In the second half of the film, Liu works on a portrait of young women in an interior in Bangkok. Together with the first part, this forms yin-yang twins that throw some light on the differences between China and Thailand.
The affinity between director Jia and artist Liu is not only a shared interest in and vision of art and culture, but also in their fascination with modern social problems. As a result, Jia’s film starts looking like the painting of Liu. And documentary looks like fiction. (GT)

Filmmaker
Jia Zhangke
Country
China
Year
2006
Medium
-
Length
66’
Language
Mandarin
Producer
Chow Keung, Dan Bo
Production Company
Xstream Pictures Limited
Sales
Memento Films International
Cinematography
Yu Lik-wai, Jia Zhangke, Chow Chi-sang, Tian Li
Editor
Kong Jin-lei
Music
Lim Giong
Cast
Liu Xiaodong