The Man With No Name

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The Chinese film director Wang Bing, who is regarded as one of the leading documentary makers of our time, is currently the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. One of the film-maker's most extraordinary achievements is a 2009 documentary The Man With No Name, the portrait of a man living on his own, far from other people, in a cave in a remote part of northern China. From this rudimentary home the man sets out each day to carry out the essential activities that ensure his survival; looking for dung, ploughing the corner of a field, collecting dead wood...For the entire hour-and-a-half of the film not a single word is uttered by the man. Four years after making the film, Wang Bing returned to see the man and to photograph him in black and white. The resulting photographs can be seen currently at the Pompidou exhibition and then from April 29th to June 7th at the Galerie Paris-Beijing in Paris. A preview of some of the images are shown here by Mediapart.

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  1. The Man With No Name in December 2013.

  2. Wang Bing says that he met the man “by chance. During a break in the filming of [his documentary] The Ditch. A friend and I took a car to cross Hebei, a large region in northern China near Beijing. It was a wild and arid place, uninhabited desert apart from passing lorries. Suddenly, from nowhere, a man appeared. I couldn't help following him right to his cave shelter. He was living alone, in total self-sufficiency and isolation.”

  3. The Man With No Name in December 2013.

  4. The Man With No Name in December 2013.

  5. “The Man With No Name doesn't have a job in order to survive. I don't know why he decided to live alone, as if he were the last remaining man,” says Wang Bing. “It's certain in any case that he had many other options open. He could have lived in the country with others. He didn't want to lead that life. I met him at the start of 2006. He still lives like this today, more than seven years later.”

  6. The Man With No Name in December 2013.

  7. “He doesn't feel the need to speak. We have never exchanged a single word. I don't even know what he is called. The filming was done on the basis of an agreement, a tacit one naturally,” explains Wang Bing.

  8. The Man With No Name in December 2013.

  9. The Man With No Name in December 2013.

  10. “In today's extremely materialistic China, his silent example is an eloquent act of resistance,” says Wang Bing. “The Man With No Name doesn't ask anyone for anything. In the desert countryside his life resembles that of a plant shoot. It's existence in a pure form. This encounter moved me profoundly.”

    Wang Bing's words are taken from Alors, la Chine, ('So, China'), an interview with Mediapart film critic Emmanuel Burdeau and Eugenio Renzi. Published by Les Prairies ordinaires, 2014.
    To read longer extracts, in French, click here.

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