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Red, White and Blue

Zhang Zanbo

Release year: 2011

Run time: 38 mins

Film type: Documentary


It will be the Spring Festival in around ten days. While it’s snowing heavily, Mr. and Mrs. Tian and their cousin, who are migrant workers from Kai County in the city of Chongqing, are still working hard on a highway building site somewhere in Hunan Province. They can only long for their hometown and Spring Festival during their short break.


Director biography

Zhang Zanbo is an independent filmmaker in China. He graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 2005 with a Masters degree, and later established Asymptote Films. Consistently focusing on individual dignity and living conditions in a rapidly developing China, his documentaries have won many awards at international film festivals. His work has been reported by and reviewed in such international media outlets as The New York Times, The Economist, National Public Radio, and NHK.

He is also a freelance non-fiction writer, published in Taiwan and mainland China. His book The Road in traditional Chinese was awarded “The Best Book of 2014” by The China Times. Later, Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou presented the 2015 TIBE Book Prize to the author and the book. At the end of 2015, the simplified Chinese version of The Road was selected as the best book in the Sina Good Book Prize. As the book provoked intense discussion in the media and among the general public after its publication in mainland China, it was banned and denied further sale and reprint after two months. The publishing house was severely punished because of its inappropriate publication of this book.

Director's statement

Red, white and blue stand for freedom, equality and fraternity in the western world, as is well known. But in China, these colours are much humbler. As I know, they are very common on building sites. They are associated with a cheap plastic fabric with a colourful stripe which is used everywhere on building sites. Sometimes used as tents which shield people from the environment, sometimes as curtains through which to separate living spaces, sometimes as bags to carry luggage, this fabric creates the rough aura associated with labour. But I have no idea of the spirit which these colours represent. I just passed by this building site occasionally, and recorded scenes of the workers who own these colours using three improvised long takes. I think these scenes are closer to the essence of documentary than my feature films.