Wu Wenguang

Wu Wenguang, born 1956 in Yunan, is a film director and a key founder of independent Chinese documentary cinema. Having finished high school in 1974, he was sent by the authorities to the countryside for four years to work as a farmer. Between 1978 and 1982, Wu studied Chinese literature at the university in Yunan. Since 1988, he has lived in Beijing, where he works as an independent documentary-film maker, writer and producer of theater shows and dance theatre.

As opposed to documentary films produced in China at the time, which were carefully planned, Wu’s first experimental documentary, Bumming in Beijing: The Last Dreamers, from 1990, was shot with a handheld camera and comprises mostly improvised dialogue. It was created at two moments in time – shortly before and after the Tiananmen Square protests – and sparked a new documentary style in China with a focus on social issues and urban life. The film depicts the generation of young outsiders. It tells the story of five young artists – a writer, a photographer, two painters and an avant-garde theater director – who choose to live outside the official system. Financed entirely by Wu, Bumming in Beijing was made outside of official cultural and bureaucratic circulation. Contrary to official propaganda films, it also avoided music and voiceover narration, to build an atmosphere of natural intimacy in its featured scenes.

(Magda Lipska)

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