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by Zheng Lu Xinyuan

grade: 7.5

In Jet Lag, the images filmed by Zheng Lu Xinyuan’s camera immediately acquire a deep and layered meaning and develop on two (not too) distinct spatial-temporal levels. At the Berlinale 2022.

Past and present around the world

Jet lag is an imbalance we experience as we move from one country to another and the time zone changes. We all know about it. This concept, however, can also be interpreted in a broader sense, namely when nostalgia for a distant past and a home country on the other side of the world create in us a kind of sense of emptiness that can hardly be filled. For this reason, then, the documentary Jet Lag, directed by director Zheng Lu Xinyuan and presented in its world premiere at the Berlinale 2022 as part of the Forum section, makes the concept of travelling – in a real and metaphorical sense – its main protagonist.

The director’s journey, therefore, begins in Graz in 2020, right during the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. During these days – and before flying back to Beijing – Zheng Lu Xinyuan began filming her days at home with her girlfriend. In parallel, we see another journey the filmmaker made with her family before the pandemic, in order to find out what happened to her great-grandfather, who left in the 1940s and never returned home.

The uncertainty of a completely unexpected moment, the constant search for truth, for oneself, for one’s origins are translated into powerful black and white images filmed almost amateurishly. Images of people observed through a window, of broken mobile phone displays, of sterile hotel rooms and moving family moments. Images that through Zheng Lu Xinyuan’s camera immediately acquire a deep and layered meaning and develop on two (not too) distinct spatial-temporal levels.

The filmmaker confides in her girlfriend during the lockdown, telling her story beside the camera. Her travels, her encounters with different cultures, her special bond with her grandmother, with whom she grew up, also slowly become familiar to us. Similarly, her sensitive and careful directorial approach ensures that black and white ‘erases’ any distance, at the same time making past and present almost become one. Or, better still, that there really is no clear division between the two. Almost as if the documentary itself took the form of a sort of stream of consciousness.

Time spent at home or in a hotel room during the lockdown often allowed people to think and reconsider their lives. A time when everything was put on hold. A moment when the filmmaker finally felt the need to put together the pieces of the puzzle that make up her own life, making a little, precious documentary with a very personal and innovative approach. Probably some questions will never be answered and some past failures can never be filled. What we see on the big screen in Jet Lag, however, is pure art and poetry. Past and present meet and create a beautiful harmony.

Original title: Jet Lag
Directed by: Zheng Lu Xinyuan
Country/year: Switzerland, Austria / 2022
Running time: 111’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Zheng Lu Xinyuan
Cinematography: Zheng Lu Xinyuan, Zoe
Produced by: Ray Matin, Shanshan Li

Info: the page of Jet Lag on the website of the Berlinale; the page of Jet Lag on iMDb