Crude Oil
(Caiyou Riji)

Directed by Wang Bing.
China, 2008, digital video, color, 840 min.
Mandarin with English subtitles.

Originally intended to be an ambitious seventy hours, Wang’s ultra-epic-length feature uses its fourteen hours to follow the long working day of crude oil extractors in China’s remote eastern Qinghai Province. Crude Oil realizes Cesare Zavattini’s often cited dream of an uncut, unvarnished film about a worker’s daily life, here expanded to include the larger team of laborers who toil and only briefly rest together as well as the haunting almost lunar landscape of the oil fields. In order to intensify the sounds, textures and experience of the oil workers, Wang chose not to subtitle the film’s minimal dialogue and conceived of Crude Oil more as an installation piece, to be shown in gallery or museum settings with the freedom to come and go as one chooses.

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