Private Project

The First Line of China

  • Hanwen Zhang
  • Hanwen Zhang
  • Hanwen Zhang
  • Project Title (Original Language):
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Student, Other
  • Genres:
    Essay Film, First-person
  • Runtime:
    45 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    June 21, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    10,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Distribution Information
  • N/A
Director Biography - Hanwen Zhang

Born in Changchun, China, Hanwen Zhang is an artist and filmmaker who currently lives in New York. He received a BS degree in Mathematics and Physics from Tsinghua University in 2016 and an MFA degree in Photo, Video and Related Media in the School of Visual Arts in 2019. Zhang’s practice is based on still and moving images, supplemented by performance, digital technology, and writing. Derived from observation in his personal experience, his work examines the status of individual existence in contemporary society, as well as its relationship with space, image, memory, and ideology. His work has been exhibited or screened in Power Station of Art (Shanghai), SVA Theater (New York), Art Academy of Tsinghua University (Beijing), and other places and his writing has been published on ArtCo China, BLINK, BROWNIE, and other media outlets.

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Director Statement

The First Line of China is a 45-min essayistic documentary in first-person narrative, which presents and examines the current status of my birthplace, an isolated industrial town in Northeast China, as well as my relationship with it. The town was constructed simultaneously with a local state-owned cement factory to feed and host the workers who migrated here. I consider this factory-town model as a combining result of the urban planning scheme and the radical industrialization of China in the 1980s, while the communal living experience serves as a bearer of both collective memory and individual sentiments.
During the shooting process, I repeatedly heard this town described as “The First Line of China” and became curious about its provenance. Throughout the film, viewers are led tracing this clue to reveal a half-buried story and reflecting on other related topics, such as the relationship between space, ideology, memory, and images; my nostalgia for the town as an imaginary hometown or a utopia; the ideological and cultural transformations of China derived from its economic reform, etcetera.