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Directed by Zhao Liang, 2015
Slowly, the camera pans across a landscape gouged out by opencast mines. Next to it is lush grassland grazed by sheep, a reminder of the nomadic life sustained here for so long.
Zhao Liang, who shot and directed this meditative documentary on Chinese industrialisation, reveals his photographic training in silent, desolate landscapes and portraits of migrant workers, capturing the textures of scarred skin.
Men tend to a bubbling furnace, jumping back when the heat becomes too much to bear. Only a disembodied narrator speaks, offering occasional reflections on toil and greed (serpents and fire are visual nods to Dante and the Old Testament).
These might be hard to stomach in a more moralising film, but Zhao’s is a masterly balance of visual eloquence and verbal restraint.