Logan Kenny’s review published on Letterboxd:
like with 24 City and I Wish I Knew, the transition from the first hour’s exploration of more concrete history and explicit Chinese culture into the second’s focus on family and reflection crushes me. instead of focusing on the industrial woes of factory workers in the era of technological revolution, or the ways a big city and its inhabitants, Jia’s focus here is on the importance of art and the developments of a small village, expanding the stories of this tiny yet monumental town to be fitting for villages across China. the experiences are largely universal and there’s a lot of focus on conveying the facts of the material conditions these villagers were raised in, the improper water, the struggle to access education in such a rural area during turbulent periods for the nation etc. but over all of it is the beauty of the writers that gather here, the reflections on those who cannot be with us now, the importance and impact of using words to capture the perspectives that no one else can bring. there might be thousands of villages like this one on the surface, but there are no people like these ones, and the equal focus on their personal histories as the systematic ones proves Jia’s devotion to people wholeheartedly. after all, what is important about understanding the conditions if we don’t understand the people in them? there’s tons of stuff here that I’ll need to think about and rewatch to properly access, and the lighter tone for several conversation stretches could be mistaken as minor by people not as familiar with Jia’s catalogue, but this is truly beautiful work. I’m not sure there’s anyone better at getting subjects to open up or creating a sense of decades of history and community in two hours than Jia is. when one of the subjects realised she was as old now as her father was during her adolescence, I started uncontrollably crying and still haven’t stopped. best in the world.