Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Doco on Chinese Bloggers Screens Tonight in Melbourne

Chinese blogger "Zola" in Stephen Maing's documentary High Tech, Low Life.
Once again, it’s been waaaay too long between posts. Alas, life and work keep getting in the way of blogging. But I’ve roused myself to let Melbourne readers know that Stephen Maing’s excellent documentary High Tech, Low Life, about two prominent Chinese activist-bloggers, screens tonight at ACMI as part of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF).

I saw Maing’s film earlier this year, and was impressed by his deft handling of multiple issues in his engrossing portrait of two major Chinese online personalities. “Tiger Temple” is a 57-year old citizen journalist, whose tireless championing of China’s underprivileged sees him engaged in constant travel around the country, building bonds with communities experiencing problems and injustices. The 27-year-old “Zola”, on the other hand, is interested in more explosive exposés – and the fame that comes with them.

As well as providing a sober portrait of cyber activism and censorship in the contemporary People’s Republic, Maing’s parallel portraits provide a fascinating insight into generational differences in modern China. Tiger Temple’s measured, unwavering, approach is informed by his experience of socialism growing up in Mao’s China – a society in which persecutions were constant, yet which also fostered a collective spirit many see as sorely lacking in today’s China. Zola’s more piecemeal approach, his impatience with restrictions on freedom of speech, and frank desire for celebrity, are all borne of his experiences growing up in a country enjoying ever rising wealth, as well as fierce levels of competition and exploitation.

"Tiger Temple" on one of his many trip across China.
High Tech, Low Life is one of the few foreign-made documentaries I’ve seen that rivals the sensitivity and insight of the best locally-made independent films about contemporary China. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in cyber activism and the inner working of modern Chinese society.

Incidentally, HRAFF is also screening many other excellent documentaries from around the world, as well as a smattering of dramas. You can read the full program here.

You can also read my interview with HRAFF programming director Sari Braithwaite here.

High Tech, Low Life screens at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne at 8.30pm on Wednesday, 14 May 2013. You can buy tickets here.

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