A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces

There are the images of before, the images of after and the letters. The images of after come first, they stem from the same surveillance camera in Wuhan, empty streets that only throng with people again on April 4th, 2020, when the siren also sounds and they stand in silence. The images of before form the rest of the film, the camera picking out scenes of unlikely, unostentatious beauty as it crisscrosses the metropolis, surveying each for minutes on end, like a city symphony without music. Wuhan hurtles ever further into the future, a hive of construction that births neon-lit bridges and buildings from the misty fields and rubble, even as water buffalo still graze. The four letters are addressed to a partner, a grandmother, a father and a daughter, all of them no longer here. Their words appear as text and the images they evoke settle over the ones on-screen, overlapping visions of the past of an equivalent melancholy: crowds on the banks, a submerged pavilion, the first trip on the metro that passes under the Yangtze, a life swimming in the river, which blends with the hazy sky in the distance. So much water under the bridge, but the river keeps flowing. It doesn’t forget.
by Shengze Zhu USA 2021 Without dialogue 87’ Colour Documentary form

Part of the Berlinale Summer Special


Director Shengze Zhu
Cinematography Shengze Zhu, Zhengfan Yang
Editing Shengze Zhu
Sound Aymeric Dupas
Producers Zhengfan Yang, Shengze Zhu

Produced by


Shengze Zhu

Born in 1987 in Wuhan, China. She works as a filmmaker and producer in Chicago. She made her debut, Xu jiao, in 2014. A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces is her fourth feature-length film.


2014 Xu jiao (Out of Focus); 88 min. 2016 You yi nian (Another Year); 181 min. 2019 Wan mei xian zai shi (Present.Perfect); 124 min.

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2021