By José Sarmiento Hinojosa

It seems that with each consecutive documentary, Wang Bing gets closer to narrate the real experience of human drama in rural China. In Bing’s camera, his country becomes a hostile environment which must be dealt head on, a rural and urban labyrinth to be traversed by these disenfranchised citizens, who seem to abandon any possibility of true hope to deal with the cruel reality of raging capitalism and its consequences. It’s a system that has forgotten them all, people against a corner of the world whose voices bounce in a restless echo: in psychiatric hospitals and far away provinces, abandoned to their luck,  and here in Bitter Money, prisoners of the textile factories of southern China.

Bing’s eye is merciless: he stubbornly follows its characters to show them in their real environment, while they sleep, fight, share laughter, despair, and get drunk. Everyone is looking for something that is beyond them, maybe a glimpse of what happiness it’s supposed to be like. But it isn’t there, among the noise of the sewing machines and the constant movement of the fabrics. And like every setting when humans are left to survive in a group, drama unfolds: wife and husband fight angrily, rumors spread, jealousy, but also solidarity. Is in the worst of conditions that the true nature of mankind comes afloat, and here, far away from home, and armed with cellphones (the only tool that allows them a contact with their roots, their families and towns) is every man for himself.

Bitter Money does not offer redemption, nor it shows this people in a patronizing, charitable way: The camera of Bing walks the path that needs to be taken, it rests when it’s necessary and gazes through the eye of its characters. It is a terrible yet masterful film.

CPH:DOX: Artists and Auteurs
Director: Wang Bing
Original Title: Ku Qian
Country: China
145 min