Shengze Zhu, MA ’13

“Out of Focus,” a documentary by Shengze Zhu, MA ’13, received international recognition by the 36th Cinéma du Réel (France), recently finishing its world premiere in Paris. Reviewer Charlotte Garson wrote: “‘Out of Focus’ looks at Chinese urbanity through children’s “discovery” of photography. The participants of a workshop run by Shengze Zhu in a school for “migrant children” in Wuhan, central China, are about twelve years old. Filming first the school roof (a four-story building frugally fitted out for two hundred pupils), Zhu shows the children bursting through the school door – an inaugural shot that conveys the joy of occupying a territory visually. A viewpoint in both the panoptical and cinematographic sense of the term. Vertical or horizontal, the camera’s panning shots are a recurrent figure of style in a documentary that strives to link the high and low – the horizon seen from the roof and the over-laden domestic interiors, the here and the elsewhere – to the seething urban life that surprises the rural children and the deserted calm of their villages. Rather than alternating sequences from the two environments, the core of the film lies in the detailed portrait of one pupil’s life and her family: Qin, a preteen impatient to access the new technologies and furious that her parents have had three children. The choice of taking a single family from the group workshop gives the film a particular force, which fortunately belies the vagueness of its title.”

Updated: August 1, 2019