Christoph Rehage was learning Chinese and studying Cinematography at the Beijing Film Academy when the idea of a rather unusual way home leaped into his mind. Back in 2007, on the morning of his 26th birthday he set off onto a journey which starts at the doorstep of his flat in the Chinese capital and should end in the provincial backwater back home in the north of Germany. “The Longest Way 1.0 – walk through China and grow a beard!” gives an account of his walk, a time-lapse recounting steps and depicting sort of metamorphosis. The video became quite an internet success and also made it to the TIME.com Top 10 of viral videos in 2009 as well as being awarded at multiple film festivals in the years after.
Journeys have bends and turns and Christoph came to a mental crossroad as well. In 2008, one year, three pairs of shoes and 4646 kilometers after the first step, he had to make a decision – and Ürümqi in the west of China turned out to mark the end of the road. “Priorities had shifted” while walking and so may have the goal. He felt like being driven by an invisible force, reaching the point where he was unable to control it and “wanted to gain back [his] life”. The Q&A section on his site delivers quite an extensive outline, albeit lacking some structure and a bit of focus. German publishing house Piper released a travelogue of “The Longest Way” and a photo book retracing the journey has been published via subsidiary Malik | National Geographic.
In the meantime a sequel set out to conquer the video platforms. “The Longest Way 2.0 – Back to Xinjiang” has been knocked up using footage from another “summer stroll” in Northwestern China in 2010 and 2012. A different approach, but still trying to follow in the footsteps of the initial journey…