In this remarkable sequence from I Am Another You, Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang considers the meaning of generosity and gratitude, and finds herself so “disgusted” with her own subject that she begins losing interest in the project—leading to a decision that will reshape the documentary entirely.
In the clip, Dylan, a 22-year-old drifter from a middle-class family whom Wang meets while staying at a hostel in Florida in 2011, receives bagels from a kind shop owner, only to attempt to sell them to passersby. As Wang explains in her voiceover narration, which accompanies off-kilter images from the restaurant’s restroom and a Florida bus, “When I first met Dylan, he seemed like a symbol for the free America I had always heard about. But the longer I spent observing how he used his freedom, my feelings changed.”
Told in three chapters, the film later depicts Wang, in Utah working on another film, as she tracks down Dylan’s father and siblings, unearthing in the process a far more complicated portrait of her subject than she ever expected.
The follow-up to her feature debut, Hooligan Sparrow, which made the Academy Awards shortlist for Best Documentary feature in 2017, I Am Another You won a SXSW Special Jury Award for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling.
The film premieres on Independent Lens Monday, Jan. 29 at 10 p.m. on PBS. Check your local listings.