Independent Lens: I Am Another You

(Rochester, NY) – When 20-something Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang first came to America in 2011, Florida seemed like an exotic frontier full of theme parks, prehistoric swamp creatures, and sunburned denizens. Staying at a hostel on a break from her studies at New York University, she encounters Dylan, a blonde, charismatic, 22-year-old drifter who has left a comfortable home and loving family in Utah for a life of intentional homelessness and unfettered adventure. Fascinated by his choice and rejection of society's rules, Nanfu follows Dylan with her camera, living with him on the streets. But what begins as a portrait of a uniquely American quest for freedom is soon upended, unfolding instead as a haunting and unforgettable story of family, illness, and love. I Am Another You premieres on Independent Lens Monday, March 16, 2020 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

“When I first met Dylan he seemed like a symbol for free America,” said Wang. “But the longer I spent observing how he used his freedom, my feelings changed.” Told in three chapters, I Am Another You begins with Wang’s unorthodox decision to accompany Dylan as he goes about his daily life – even if that means sleeping on the streets and eating out of garbage cans. Sympathetic strangers offer them beds, food, and cash, but Wang is soon unsettled by Dylan’s cavalier way with this charity; when he throws away a bag of bagels presented to them by a kind shopkeeper, she packs up and heads home.

The story continues a few years later when Wang is in Utah working on another film. Deciding to pick up Dylan’s trail, she finds his father and siblings — each in their own way as extraordinary as Dylan. As their story unfolds, Wang’s initial tale of a carefree drifter becomes something much more unexpected.

Portrait of Dylan Olsen, the subject of I Am Another You.
Credit: Courtesy of Nanfu Wang

 

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