The Chinese Mayor Screen 6 articles

The Chinese Mayor

2014

The Chinese Mayor Poster
  • Hao occasionally acknowledges his past as a news photographer in brief overhead or panoramic shots, but his true function is as a journalist rather than aestheticist. There’s so much that hasn’t been documented about China’s internal and political life, and this is just a start: the filmmaker is regularly kicked out of rooms when “internal discussion” quashes the lightly held myth of a transparent political process. This is urgent and scabrously entertaining material.

  • As Geng balances ambitions to transform the city of Datong into a shrine to Chinese culture and history with bureaucratic mandates to demolish 30% of the city's housing (and relocate half a million residents), Zhou's film plays out like an episode of Parks and Recreation directed by the Maysles brothers.

  • Lurking just beneath Hao’s coolly observational style is a meta-freakout at the sheer insanity of the access and its potential consequences. Yanbo’s (and the film’s) mask slips in the last 15 minutes to quietly devastating effect. I thought about no film more intensely, which can be partly attributed to Hao’s open-ended, unobtrusively provoking style.

  • Even though it rigorously subscribes to the tenet of cinéma vérité, it is a sort of parallel universe that Hao Zhou’s latest investigation, The Chinese Mayor (Datong), and the Special Jury Award received at Sundance for “unprecedented access”, expresses a spectatorial wonderment at how such a film was at all possible.

  • What’s remarkable about the film isn’t only its on-the-ground footage of the resulting demolition and the dispersal of these citizens, but its complex depiction of Geng, a man caught between his grand ambition and the collateral effects of that ambition as he pursues his vision of a more financially and socially healthy Datong.

  • I was more than happy to catch up with a genuine Sundance find such as The Chinese Mayor, Hao Zhou’s exemplary look at a small-town (well, small-city) politician making tough decisions in the name of economic progress and profile-raising.

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