Writing in Water Film Screening and Discussion with the Filmmaker

2014-2015 Religion & Politics Film Series

Fourth and final film in the series.



Women’s Building Formal Lounge Washington University in St. Louis

One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130

The 2014-2015 Religion and Politics Film Series brings together four documentaries that draw our attention to the many roles that religion and technology play in shaping categories of identity and metrics of exclusion in public life and private practice. Although approaching a wide range of subject matter, each film exposes the subtle but powerful influences that technologies exert on our bodies, minds, and imaginations. In each of these films, race, religion, and nation emerge as contested spaces for defining community and otherness, belonging and exclusion, insider and outsider—categories in which the boundaries of religion and politics often collapse. The filmmaker will be present to discuss their work and answer questions immediately following each screening.

Writing in Water (2012) by Angela Zito is the fourth and final film presented in the Religion & Politics Film Series. The film follows two generations of calligraphy teachers, Wang Tongxing and Liu Lanbo, 王童性 刘兰波, through the eyes of an American who learned to write with them, in Tuanjiehu Park, Beijing, where they practice writing on the plaza everyday. We encounter the funny, philosophically inclined teachers and the community of students, people who have been retired or left behind by China’s get-rich quick reforms. We see them together in the park and alone at home. With their students they connect past to present, master to pupil, friend to friend, making a community, making Chinese characters that slowly materialize, and that last long after the water has evanesced into air. The film is 42 minutes; Chinese with English subtitles.

Angela Zito is Associate Professor of Anthropology, Religious Studies; Director, Religious Studies Program; and Co-director of the Center for Religion and Media at New York University. Her research interests include cultural history/historical anthropology; critical theories of religion; religions of China; religion and media; history and anthropology of embodiment; gender; performance and subjectivity; and documentary film. She has received numerous grants including from the Henry R. Luce Foundation initiative on Religion and International Affairs, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and National Endowment for the Humanities.  Zito has co-produced four versions of the biennial documentary film festival REEL China at NYU.  Writing in Water is her first documentary and part of a study in Beijing about places where people congregate, using the opportunity to create new public spaces as they produce cultural expressions. Her current project is on “Religion in the digital age: Knowledge, politics and practice in an international frame.”

Dinner will be provided immediately following this event. Please RSVP to rap@wustl.edu or (314) 935-9345 to help with our food service.

Free and open to all.


  • Angela Zito