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From The dGenerate Films Collection
Youth (Spring)

A film by Wang Bing

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YOUTH (SPRING) is a documentary driven by the thrum of industrial sewing machines — just like the lives of the young garment workers it portrays.

The town of Zhili, about 95 miles from Shanghai, is a center for the children’s garment industry. Workers in their teens and early twenties come from surrounding provinces to live in sparse, trash-strewn concrete dorms in the same buildings as the small factories where they spend their days sewing leggings, shorts, fluffy skirts, and jackets with Mickey Mouse hoods.

A remarkably intimate documentary filmed over five years, YOUTH takes us into these independent workshops — many on a street named Happiness Road. Relationships form and fall apart. Young women fend off their co-workers’ advances. Managers and employees engage in intense negotiations over piece-work rates. Unexpected pregnancies throw couples and their families into turmoil. There are fights over shared washrooms, decisions over whether to stay or quit and go home, and many, many meals of take-out noodles.

A successor to Wang Bing’s 2017 film BITTER MONEY, YOUTH is not an exposé of the garment industry. Instead, it draws us into the lives of its subjects — young people who don’t make their beds, worry about having the latest iPhone, and occasionally engage in a food fight. Like so many of us, they’re doing the best they can in a challenging environment.

"Critics' Pick! An exhortation not to forget the unseen.” —The New York Times

“Lived experience is the essence of Youth (Spring) as well as it is of Wang’s project. As a filmmaker he embeds himself in China’s working classes, working his own trade alongside them.” —J. Hoberman, The Nation

“Consistently engaging. Like Frederick Wiseman, Wang is a lofty filmmaking doc deity who moves in mysterious, glacial ways, but one who sometimes performs miracles.” —The Hollywood Reporter

“[Wang Bing's] scale and purpose are always impressive.” —Ion Cinema

“[An] immersive, 3.5-hour opus. As a standalone feature, the dense and repetitive slice-of-life offers notes on a theme, lamenting stifled promise while considering the ways such youthful vigor can withstand, overcome or wholly be crushed by the grinding gears of capitalism with Chinese characteristics.” —IndieWire

Youth (Spring) is possibly the most significant document of Chinese garment workers ever created.” —Paste Magazine

“Taken in aggregate, Wang’s micro portraits add up to a larger canvas on which the dreams and hopes of an entire toiling generation are outlined. To say that their destinies are intertwined with our own here in the West may be overstating it—but it seems essential to learn about and pay attention to our Chinese counterparts.” —Vogue

“Wang’s film feels less like an exposé than an eye-opener; a portrait of a reality that feels almost otherworldly in its distance and difference. Youth (Spring) is a rare window into a world of life and work that might be specific but has clear echoes in scenarios the world over.” —TimeOut

“Wang’s film lays bare the perspectives of his subjects through imagery that augments the compacted space and adolescent/20-something energy that yearns to find any sort of solace and comfort and freedom in a necessarily labor-intensive situation… An absolute gift to sit through.” —Film Inquiry

“Bing smartly gives fast fashion the slow cinema treatment in Youth as he immerses audiences in the sweaty cacophony of broken dreams that fuels their wardrobes… Bing harnesses the aesthetics of garbage to evoke an unsustainable future fueled by the high-cost, low-reward demands of the consumer culture that traps these young people into such menial work…  Look closely, though, and one sees images warmed by hope. It’s good that Bing provides us so much time to recognize it.” —POV Magazine

“How can you not be moved by the simple gesture of this very film?” —The Film Stage

“An observational practice that tries to expose systemic exploitation without reducing its subjects to their plight, a political gesture tempered by humanism. It’s almost as if a breeze of fresh air runs through the cinematic edifice, the workers’ vitality a balm for an audience whose patience may be straining and whose heart can’t take another beating. There’s even humor to be found, odd as it sounds.” —The Film Experience

“Even though the three-and-a-half-hour runtime is daunting, it’s necessary to communicate the film’s complex ideas. Bing also navigates the runtime effectively, using the repetitiveness of footage to explain to audiences that they’re only seeing a tiny fraction of a worker’s day, let alone their life.” —Under the Radar

“Wang’s concern, in this global context, is re-humanization. In Youth (Spring), he achieves this through lengthy scenes of casual workplace conversations, which explore the inner lives of the teens and 20-somethings at Zhili factories and dormitories by capturing them in group settings, whether hunched over their sewing machines as they gossip, or huddled over smartphones as they show each other viral videos.” —

“A momentous documentary that pushes the limits of cinema with its observational perspective, which in turn presents audiences with a portrait of a world that we may feel utterly disconnected from as we engage with consumer culture every single day.” —Foremost Film

Cannes Film Festival 2023
New York Film Festival 2023

215 minutes / Color
Mandarin / English subtitles
Release: 2023
Copyright: 2023

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

Subject areas:
China, Labor Studies, Asia, dGenerate Films Collection - Documentaries

Related Links:
The Films of Wang Bing

In Theaters

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Last Updated July 30, 2023 [Build 3.0.a060-d7]
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