A film by Wang Bing
2018, 3-DISC SET, 495 minutes
No. 188

In Gansu Province, northwest China, lie the remains of countless prisoners abandoned in the Gobi Desert sixty years ago. Deemed “ultra-rightists” in the Communist Party’s Anti-Rightist campaign of 1957, they starved to death in the Jiabiangou and Mingshui reeducation camps. 

Directed by Wang Bing (Fengming), one of the most important Chinese artists and documentarians working today, Dead Souls invites us to meet the survivors of the camps to find out firsthand who these persons were, the hardships they were forced to endure, and what became their destiny.

Co-released with Icarus Films.

Official Selection, Cannes Film Festival

"A monumental achievement: as a documentary, as a humanist tribute and as an effort at historical rectification." — Sight & Sound

"Masterful, heart-wrenching, harrowing; this essential documentary is necessarily, unflinchingly grim; the cinematic equivalent of walking in the survivors’ shoes, and a complex, challenging but crucial viewing experience that burrows its immense sorrows deep into the audience’s bones. A Shoahof our time." — Screen Daily

"Among the few films to ever merit comparison to [Shoah]." — Film Comment

"Explosive; Charting the origins, operations and outcomes of a far-flung Chinese labor camp in the late 1950s/early 1960s, the documentary offers affecting and harrowing accounts from those who survived the gulag. Thoroughly focused and tightly structured, it is an immensely perceptive piece about the history of China and its multitude of discontents." —The Hollywood Reporter

"Dead Souls joins such works as Lanzmann’s Shoah and Guzman’s The Battle of Chile as a vast memorial to state barbarity.... [Wang Bing is] the most intrepid chronicler of post-Mao China." — James Quandt, The New York Review of Books

“A powerfully sobering and clear-eyed investigation that justifies its length through the gravity and presence of its testimony.” — Variety

“Dead Souls” is only the latest film in an ambitious, outsize oeuvre that seems to take Frederick Wiseman as the benchmark for capturing the experience of a nation." — The New York Times

“Vivid, visceral and unfiltered; the experiences narrated here cannot be summarized.” — Cultural Anthropology

"An indispensable primary source document.  This is a story largely unknown outside of China but within China as well, especially among those born after the events, making these testimonies essential for future generations.... A critical living document to tragic events in modern Chinese history. By preserving it Wang Bing has done an inestimable job in keeping that history alive and never to be forgotten. This film is even more important now as the laogai [work camps], which were officially abolished in 2013, have been revived in Xinjiang with the very same shortcomings as in the past." — Critical Asian Studies