In this essay I aim to position contemporary Chinese filmmaker Wang Bing at the center of the debate on “new” forms of realism in cinema by looking into the representation of work in his films. Wang’s style is geared towards a detailed and slow-paced documentation of people living in Chinese post-socialist society. Wang’s approach testifies to a deep concern with narrating his documentary material—the three-part structure of his nine-hour-long debut West of the Tracks (2003) is exemplary of this concern. At the same time however, Wang frequently trains his camera at his subjects performing actual uneventful manual work. I will conduct a close viewing of the precise sites and materiality of labor in Wang’s films while comparing his aesthetics to the documentary work of the Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman. Rather than reading their films in terms of slowness, I will consider their long take style and their shared fascination with historical fact and concern with narrative as a means to reconnect isolated struggles, and therefore, as a possible reevaluation of the critical potential of a realist aesthetics today.