Thursday, May 03, 2018

I Am Another You-A Film by Nanfu Wang

In the urban wilds of South Florida roams Dylan who both explores for the sake of exploring and works for the sake of hard labor. He is doing his “Into the Wild” thing, but in the opposite geographical direction of Alexander Supertramp aka Christopher McCandless, as Miami becomes his new sunny habitat to be deliberately homeless after a stint in San Diego. Nanfu Wang, a film maker from over-industrialized mainland China, sets us out to document street life in America where her path converges with drifting Dylan. While she initially senses freedom in that the sky is Dylan’s roof, she later sees the selflessness of Dylan’s trajectory.  He may appear free on the outside, but inside his mind is mired in a vat of drugs and ensnared by paranoia. He tellingly declares that he is "22 years old, but feels like 100." Accompanied by her camera, Nanfu decides to enter dumpster diving street life in order to better understand Dylan and the concept of “freedom” in America.  Right away, they end up getting roused by police for sleeping in a city park.  She eventually finds out he was originally from Utah and was Mormon for more than a minute.  As she digs into his past, she finds more layers and much more complexity, which eventually leads to filming Dylan on his home turf within the dynamic of his estranged family in Utah. Nanfu and Dylan’s working relationship immediately halts when things come to an impasse over a donated bag of bagels given to Dylan as goodwill by a "Philadelphia-themed" Miami bagel shop.  Watching their underlying Eastern & Western values clash over the donated bagels is particularly piercing.  Dylan argues that he does not want to schlep the extraneous weight and make unnecessary restroom stops, but Nanfu sees it as a shameful act of wasting food-especially premium-grade bagels given away as an act of kindness.  Dylan and Nanfu lead viewers to both the visible and elusive edges of homelessness and ultimately to the question, “Does one have to lose oneself in order to find oneself?"

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