Bumming in Beijing 流浪北京 + Q&A (1990)

  • Documentary, Avant-Garde
  • 1h 10m

Don’t miss the Q&A with director Wu Wenguang - “the father of independent documentary” of China.

This is the first-ever independent documentary in China. Thus, it has its special status in Chinese Cinema. The film to a large extent reflect the sort of “underground” or “hippie” ethos and youth culture under the social-economic change and political environment at the time.

The film is an account of the wanderings of five young artists who came during that period to Beijing from the provinces. In order to pursue their own artistic dreams they rejected the state-assigned jobs and led a roomer’s life in Beijing without a fixed income or the security of a home. The shooting of this film was started in 1988 and completed in 1990. At the film’s end, only one of the five artists stayed on in Beijing, the other four have left China and went to Europe and the United States.

Director’s statement

“One day in April, 1988, Zhang Ci, who has been making her living as a writer in Beijing, told me that she was getting married and leaving China. Her future husband, George, was a silver-haired American. People who’ve met him at Zhang Ci’s place all said he looked like Hemingway; and Zhang Ci called him ‘My Papa’.

That got me thinking. The people around me, all these young artists with their ideals, who gave up their jobs and residence registrations to come to Beijing in the early 80s, would soon close the “ Bumming in Beijing” chapter in their lives and disperse. I should really start making a movie on them.

What they went through I have always wanted to document the lives of such an extraordinary group of artists, and to become an independent producer, to make the kind of “real documentary” that I want to make, free of constraints or interference.

Shooting began in August, 1988, and the film was completed in mid-1990. During this time, three out of four of my subjects have married foreigners and left China. Only one of them remained in Beijing. The title of this film: Bumming in Beijing-The Last Dreamers, grew out naturally form this turn of events.

With the completion of this film, the 80s drew to a close. To a certain group of Chinese young people, it perhaps signaled the end of an era of dreams and romanticism. The 90s will be a totally different story. The people in the film aspired to “a life of art”, perhaps they now aspire to ‘the art of life’.

These are my thoughts now. But during shooting, my only concern was to make an honest documentary as truthful observer.”


Wu Wenguang


Wu Wenguang


Wu Wenguang


Lu Wangping