Swimming out till the see turns blue

Director: Jia Zhangke

Dawn breaks in a desolate, gray industrial city in the north of China. Until sunset, we follow four characters whose lives will intersect. There is Yu Cheng, a young crook who goes in search of 16-year-old Wei Bu who accidentally injured his brother to death. In addition, we have 60-year-old Wang Jin who fears that his family will put him in a home. And then we have Huang Ling, a classmate of Wei Bu, who has a relationship with a school board member. The title refers to a myth: in the far north of China there is said to be an elephant in a zoo that refuses to eat and move in order to let all the suffering of the world slide away. One of the main characters absolutely wants to visit that elephant.

A film of an exceptionally high aesthetic level: long takes, masterful use of depth of field, muted color palette, very nice soundtrack. All this creates a melancholic atmosphere and emotional depth. 'An Elephant Sitting Still' will remain the eternal debut of Bo Hu, who stepped out of life himself just before his own premiere. An act that becomes symbolic for this deeply human portrait of people in a society that is increasingly selfish and where life, even in a small Chinese village, is increasingly under economic pressure. 

A remarkable debut that is related to the work of Kieslowski & Bela Tarr, but also to David Foster Wallace's 'The Pale King' and Chantal Akerman's 'No Home Movie'. The film received the Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival 2018.


About the director

Jia Zhangke was born in Fenyang, Shanxi, in 1970 and graduated from Beijing Film Academy. His debut feature Xiao Wu won prizes in Berlin, Vancouver and elsewhere. Since then, his films have routinely premiered in the major European festivals. Still Life won the Golden Lion in Venice in 2006, A Touch Of Sin won the Best Screenplay prize in Cannes in 2013 and Mountains May Depart and Ash Is Purest White were in competition in Cannes 2015 and 2018. Several of his films have blurred the lines between fiction and documentary.


SWIMMING OUT TILL THE SEA TURNS BLUE - Berlin 2020, Berlin Special

ASH IS PUREST WHITE - Cannes 2018, Competition

MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART- Cannes 2015, Competition

A TOUCH OF SIN - Cannes 2013, Best Screenplay

I WISH I KNEW (documentary) - Cannes 2010, Un Certain Regard

24 CITY - Cannes 2008, Competition

USELESS (documentary) - Venice 2007, Venice Horizons Documentary Award

STILL LIFE - Venice 2006, Golden Lion Award

DONG (documentary) - Venice 2006, Horizon

THE WORLD - Venice 2004, Competition

UNKNOWN PLEASURES - Cannes 2002, Competition

IN PUBLIC (documentary) - Marseille 2001, Grand Prix

PLATFORM - Venice 2000, Competition

XIAO WU - Berlin 1998, Wolfgang Staudte Award & Netpac Award

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