China is the next country represented in the World Cinema Documentary Competition with THE CHINESE MAYOR, Hao Zhou’s inside look at a local official’s radical plan to bring prosperity to his city.
Sundance Program Description:
Once the thriving capital of Imperial China, the city of Datong now lies in near ruins. Not only is it the most polluted city in the country, it is also crippled by decrepit infrastructure and even shakier economic prospects. But Mayor Geng Tanbo plans to change all that, announcing a bold, new plan to return Datong to its former glory, the cultural haven it was some 1,600 years ago. Such declarations, however, come at a devastatingly high cost. Thousands of homes are to be bulldozed, and a half-million of its residents (30 percent of Datong’s total population) will be relocated under his watch. Whether he succeeds depends entirely on his ability to calm swarms of furious workers and an increasingly perturbed ruling elite. THE CHINESE MAYOR captures, with remarkable access, a man and, by extension, a country leaping frantically into an increasingly unstable future.
Journalist/photographer turned filmmaker Hao Zhou has been making documentaries for over a dozen years, with previous films appearing in festivals including IDFA, Hong Kong, Chicago, Taiwan, Guangzhou, and Rome. His producer/executive producer, Qi Zhao, has had three films at Sundance before: FALLEN CITY (2013) as director/producer, CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT (2012) as co-producer, and LAST TRAIN HOME (2010) as executive producer. Also serving as executive producer here is Qi’s Yuanfang Media colleague Michelle Ho, who had the same role for FALLEN CITY.
Why You Should Watch:
Through his fascinating if guarded, ever on-the-go protagonist, Hao provides audiences with a rare inside look at local Chinese politics. Serving as a microcosm for the larger issues facing the rapidly changing nation as a whole, Datong’s challenging development – and its consequent impact on the city’s poor residents – reveals the contradictions faced in the pursuit of progress, as well as the personal price paid by Mayor Geng Tanbo.
As they become available, I’ll link to upcoming features, such as Indiewire‘s filmmaker interviews and the film’s trailer and website. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.
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