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If there was one documentary at ASTRA Film Festival 2018 that made me think about my entire life, choices, my family, emotional state and touched my heart, it was a film by a Chinese filmmaker, “I Am Another You”. I guess it had a similar effect on the members of the jury as well, since the film received the main prize.

Let me tell you below why you should see this film by all means.

Synopsis (source: www.astrafilm.ro)

When Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang first came to America, Florida seemed like an exotic frontier full of theme parks and sunburned denizens. As she travels wide-eyed from one city to another, she encounters Dylan, a charismatic young drifter who left a comfortable home and loving family for a life on the streets. Fascinated by his choice and rejection of society’s rules, Nanfu follows Dylan with her camera on a journey that spans across years, takes her across America, and explores the meaning of freedom. But as Nanfu delves into Dylan’s world, she discovers something that calls her entire worldview into question.

Watch the trailer here

Photo by Florin Slabu

My general impressions of the film

(beware the spoilers)

As soon as the film started, it became obvious that it was going to be a beautifully filmed picture. There were scenes that woke up my desire to travel and explore. I could fully enjoy what was clearly the product of very talented cinematographers (Nanfu Wang and Michael Shade).

What Nanfu Wang managed is to take us on a journey together with her and Dylan. She let us follow the exact same thread of the thought she had when she was getting to know Dylan better. First, you are dealing with an intense curiosity for a guy’s life who decided to leave it all and live on the road. Then, you start to distance yourself from it all when it simply seems too difficult but at a certain point, you start to dig deeper and look for the reasons for Dylan’s choices. You realize that even though his journey is his only it makes you self-reflect in such depth that you didn’t expect to achieve inside a movie theatre.

Unconventional ways of living and the reaction of society

What strikes me is just how brainwashed we have become by the mainstream media. Whenever I had made a choice that is slightly different from the rules that the society (Romanian, Georgian or German, in my experience) has established, I have encountered such a strong push-back that I wondered: what is it about those society rules that makes people so categorical about their opinions?

Following Dylan, we slowly realize how many questions he has to answer daily just because it has become such an unexpected act to want to travel and explore more without having too much belongings. What if he really doesn’t care about owning a flat or a car? It’s really hard for people to accept the fact that not everybody wants the same thing.

I immediately remembered my own case when I decided to become  freelancer and quit my office job. Surprisingly high number of people discouraged me and warned me that I was making a huge mistake. Some have told me that it’s just a phase and it would go away soon. Well, here we are after more than 2 years and I am happier every day to have chosen this lifestyle. And let’s not forget that being a freelancer is not that uncommon but since it’s a slight deviation from what people are taught to be “normal”, it still gives birth to a lot of questions and skepticism.

Nanfu Wang in her video that she sent to thank the jury for the main prize; Photo by Florin Slabu

Mental Health Stigma

I truly believe that mental problems similar to what Dylan was having are far more common than people think. I am glad people started to talk about these things more openly but in Georgia, for example, it is still a subject of irony when somebody says they’ve been going to a psychologist. Anxiety and/or paranoya can considerably worsen a person’s life and friends telling him/her to stop worrying or to take it easy will not solve the problem. The more a person listens to such advices, the more convinced he or she becomes that nobody understands him/her. That is why it becomes crucial for us to understand that there is no “normal” and everybody has their angle or the spectrum of “crazy”.

Dylan has to deal with some severe mental problems that he prefers to keep to himself because he’s afraid he will be misunderstood anyway. But once he finds people who are going through similar issues, just the mere fact that somebody knows what he’s dealing with, becomes a relief.

Wait a second, am I really just another you?

Dylan’s life can be extremely different from mine, from every point of view, yet we still have so much in common. Just like every other person in their twenties, we have both been searching for ourselve, our identities, we have been dealing with anxiety, desire to travel and need to have a home to come back to. Sometimes, all this becomes so exhausting and unbearable that I believe I am alone in my struggles. But then I talk to someone or watch Dylan trying to find his way and I wonder: Wait a second… am I really just another you?