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Dance with Farm Workers

Wu Wenguang

Release year: 2001

Run time: 57 mins

Film type: Documentary


Dance with Farm Workers is a documentary about a very unconventional performance of the same name. Unconventional in as much as the project involved not only actors and dancers, but also 30 Beijing farm workers from the poorer regions of Sichuan Province. In addition, both the rehearsals and the performance took place on the production floor of a former textile factory that could soon be torn down as part of Beijing’s rapid modernization, as had thousands of such factories before it. The superbly fit farm laborers, who came to the city when they lost hope that conditions would improve at home, are the supporting pillars of this modernization. The performance was initiated and organized by choreographer Wen Hui, artists Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, and myself. We invited 10 professional dancers and actors, three of them (a French woman and two Americans) foreigners studying in Beijing, as well as 30 farm laborers working on building sites in Beijing whose sole wish as first was to be paid 30 yuan a day, which we promptly did. It was only some time later that they discovered that they, the lowest of the low, would be standing centre stage.


Director biography

Wu was born in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province in 1956. After graduating from secondary school in 1974, Wu was sent to the countryside, where he worked as a farmer for four years. Between 1978 and 1982, he studied Chinese literature at Yunnan University. After university, Wu worked for three years as a teacher at a junior high school, and after, for four years in television as a journalist. Wu left television and moved to Beijing in 1988 to be an independent documentary filmmaker, freelance writer, and creator and producer of dance/theatre. Wu has completed ten documentaries, including Bumming in Beijing (1990), 1966, My Time in the Red Guards (1993), Jiang Hu: Life on the Road (1999), Fuck Cinema (2005), Treating (2010), Bare Your Stuff (2010), Because of Hunger: Diary I by Wu (2013), Investigating My Father (2016). These have screened at many film festivals world-wide. He has also published four books of no-fiction.

In 1994, Wu co-founded the independent dance group Living Dance Studio with Wen Hui in Beijing, and created/performed a series of dance performances. These included works like Report on Giving Birth (1999), Report on the Body (2003), Report on 37.8 º (2005), Memory (2008), Memory II: Hunger (2010), which have toured festivals all over the world. In 2005, Wu co-founded the independent art space Caochangdi Workstation in Beijing. Since then, Wu has established a series of documentary and performance programmes, in particular the Village Documentary Project (established in 2005) and Folk Memory Project (established in 2010).