First-time director Wang Jing sees the pain that his mentor Jia Zhangke has experienced on the movie set as motivation for his filmmaking journey. The perfection, precision and attention to details that he aspires to in his directorial debut “The Best Is Yet to Come” are the fruits born from being on the set with the Chinese auteur.
Wang, who has worked as assistant director on Jia’s “Ash Is Purest White,” “Mountains May Depart” and “Touch of Sin,” recalls that the director would sometimes get furious on the set over what was seen as something very minor, such as a prop letter without a stamp chop, or a tiny maltreatment of an actor’s costume.
“He blasted on the set, telling the crew that he did not want any irreversible mistakes to stay in this film should this film live and be revisited by people in the future. It left a mark in my life because I understood then that it did not come from his anger, but his pain,” Wang tells Variety.
“The Best Is Yet to Come,” which is having its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 9 before playing at the Toronto Film Festival in the Discovery section later in the month, is the result of Wang putting Jia’s principles into practice.
Set in the 2003 aftermath of the SARS epidemic, the thriller follows an ambitious young reporter who was investigating forged medical screenings for Hepatitis B carriers, who were heavily discriminated against in the society at the time because of misinformation about the disease.
While the film could be reminiscent of “Spotlight” and the timing of release coincidentally strikes a chord with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Wang says the film is about looking at society through the lens of a journalist, inspired by real stories that he learnt through the connections of Tang Yan, a former news media chief editor and one of the film’s executive producers (the other is Jia). The life experiences of Han Fudong, the former chief reporter of the Southern Metropolis Daily, became the blueprint of Wang’s script. And Han Dong is the name of the lead character in Wang’s film.
“His life story is the most dramatic and remarkable among all the reporters I have encountered,” says the Shangxi native, who was trained at the Beijing Film Academy.
“A courageous and passionate small-town young man who embarked on a journey to become one of the most important journalists in China 17 years ago — it’s the kind of story that could exist only in that era. People back then aspired for a better tomorrow. They believed that changes were possible, and (believed in) the power of individuals.”
Through reading Han’s writings during his research, Wang discovered the topic of the Hepatitis B carriers from one of Han’s articles, from which he saw Han projecting his personal experiences and emotions onto the reportage he has written, just like filmmakers do in their movies.
“This film tells a story about refusing to be beaten, as well as the right and courage to say no,” Wang says. “Han Dong is an important character not only in the film, but also in my life, because it symbolizes what kind of world that we and our children will live in.”