FILM REVIEW The Chinese Mayor : A Lesson in Insanity

 The Chinese Mayor

The Chinese Mayor

***SPOILER ALERT***

I talk about the ending, don't read further if that sort of thing destroys films for you.

***SPOILER ALERT***

Chinese language documentary 'The Chinese Mayor' has one of the most tragic protagonists I have seen captured on film in a long time. 

My heart shed tears at the end of this film thanks to the tediously well documented story by the skeleton crew of just TWO cinematographers.

In the closing lines mayor Geng Yanbo of Daton in the Shanxi province, our main character in the 87 minute documentary, share final words with one of the cameraman that has been following him for what I imagine is nearly a year.

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Geng "What have you been filming all this time?"

Cameraman "You don't know?  We are always around you."

Geng "I sorta forgot about your existence."

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The best sort of cinematographers will blend into the background so well that its subjects will behave naturally with no vanity and extraneous remarks and gestures.  The Chinese Mayor is one of the best sorts of examples of this being done with sensitivity and awareness of the events' historical significance.

Geng, despite his ruthlessness in attempting to perform his dramatic cosmetic facelift to the city that displaces tens of thousands of citizens, we root for him to be successful.  We want his work and energy to NOT be in vain because perhaps we also know, as he often expresses, that if he doesn't accomplish this lofty task then it will be just a vanity project, the type that is better off having not been attempted at all if it cannot be completed.   

Audience goers will find themselves holding their breath in anticipation for that dramatic closing scene where the end seems to justify the means,  but alas Geng is transferred and all projects come to a halting stop.  

And this is the worst fear realized, thousands displaced, corrupt construction workers making out with millions and a half finished wall that goes protects no one, nor welcomes anyone in. 

 The Chinese Mayor

The Chinese Mayor

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

There is a Greek tale in which Sisyphus, punished for deceitfulness is forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, repeating this action for eternity.

Geng who moves from city to city and province to province dreaming to better a nation he clearly loves so dearly seems destined to the same sort of fate.

Within just months of completing his project in the Shanxi province he is moved to a new city.  

And yet he starts the whole process all over again.  

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW Seoul Searching : More 80s than the 80s it seeks to emulate

And at long, long last I have finally seen Benson Lee's 'Seoul Searching' a coming of age 'Saved By the Bell' meets 'The Outsiders' in a based on the true story of one Korean American kid (or two) kind of Korean diaspora docuCinefilm.  

According the the film's prologue after the Korean War many Koreans chose to leave their home country to raise their families abroad but as their descendants became less and less 'Korean' (extra emphasis on the air quotes) the government chose to fund summer camps for their lost generation of Korean-foreign misfits.  In a massive import of Korean kids the reverse student exchange program aimed to socially repatriate the children of Korea to strengthen their Korean identity.