Dead Souls, Dir. Wang Bing, France / Switzerland 2018, 496 mins, Chinese with English subtitles
Dead Souls screens in two parts of 249 minutes each.
In Gansu Province, northwest China, lie the remains of countless prisoners abandoned in the Gobi Desert 60 years ago, victims of the Communist Party's Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957. Dead Souls is the third chapter of an in-depth inquiry into how the Party dealt with ideological dissent by prolific Chinese artist and filmmaker Wang Bing.
Dead Souls follows Fengming, A Chinese Memoir (2007) and The Ditch (2010), completing Wang Bing’s investigation into a tragic legacy of the Communist Party of China. Eight hours long and presented in two parts, this monumental and unique work reconstructs an underknown chapter of Chinese history by providing essential testimony from survivors of the Jiabiangou and Mingshui re-education camps.
With courage and empathy, Dead Souls centres the words and memories of those who survived devastating privation, and in so doing also touches the reality of those who died. Oral tradition and recalled historical fragments foreground the personal accounts that make Dead Souls an essential yet painful account of modern China. Part of a ‘cinema of testimony’ that might encompass Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, Rithy Panh’s The Missing Picture and Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia for the Light, Dead Souls aims to picture the unimaginable and to construct a narrative from almost inconceivable atrocity.
This film is presented and distributed by ICA CINEMA in keeping with its intention to shed light on works that push the boundaries of cinematic language and represent the under-represented on screen. It is available for bookings.