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Jia Zhangke on Experimenting With AI for Cannes Entry ‘Caught by the Tides,’ Respecting the Audience

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Lise Pedersen Sporting a warm smile and a pair of sunglasses – “Sorry, I’ve been busy editing and my eyes hurt,” he explained – one of China’s leading indie directors Jia Zhangke, whose upcoming film “Caught by the Tides” will be vying for the Palme d’or in Cannes next month, was guest of honor at the 55th edition of Swiss doc festival Visions du Réel this week.

Finished just in time for submission to Cannes, the film features his wife Zhao Tao, his muse over the last two decades, and tells the story of a couple spanning 20 years.

Explaining how the pandemic gave him the opportunity to review his footage all the way back to 2001, he described his new film as “a concentration of 20 years’ experience,” which blends footage shot with equipment ranging from 16mm film to 5D and even experiments with AI. “I used whatever was available, I won’t wait until conditions become favorable to make a film.

I can make a film with any equipment available – digital or other – I even used AI! I am happy to embrace all technologies: artists should make attempts – we can embrace or reject it – but we must get to know this technology first.” Jia’s visit to the fest marks his first trip abroad since the outbreak of the pandemic, and he was clearly enjoying being back in Europe.

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