Man in Black: Wang Xilin centre stage

After his Competition debut with Youth (Spring), Wang Bing is back with a second documentary shown during a Special Screening: Man in Black, a sixty-minute sensory tribute to dissident Chinese composer Wang Xilin.

Body, voice and music. The first is naked, etched with the traces of years of persecution. The second brims with anger and a rawness of the soul. And the third is a wave of soaring symphonies to last eternity.

Wang Xilin appears in a setting crafted by Wang Bing in the Bouffes du Nord theatre. Here in one of Paris’ most exquisite venues, the composer is free to express that which the Chinese regime had tried to stifle. His passion for the cause took root early in his career, before weaving its way into his compositions, through which Xilin tackles prison, death and persecution. He is the bearer of memory: a witness to the events that have rattled contemporary Chinese history and eluded historians.

Wang Bing invites the musician to literally bare all, rendering visible all he has been forced to endure. “The destruction of the body is the ultimate political punishment,” explains the director. “I wanted to shine a light on a body that has suffered through all these trials.”

The two men first met fifteen-odd years ago, when Bing asked Xilin to compose the score for his fiction film The Ditch, before ultimately abandoning the soundtrack. What followed was concert footage and sequences shot when Wang Xilin left China, for example. The ghost of an idea for a documentary was taking shape, and Wang Bing decided to try a new, more suggestive, more poetic form, tackling a topic that is political through to its core.