Ascension Review – Surreal and Fascinating Snapshots of the “Chinese Dream” | Documentary films

IIn a business etiquette workshop designed to prepare future executives for potential encounters with their Western counterparts, an instructor with a polished Stepford veneer instructs his class on hugging protocol and the correct number of teeth to show in a smile (the answer is eight). In a workshop in Zhongshan, a team of women lovingly craft custom-made silicone sex dolls.

Meanwhile, at a food processing plant, workers in grease-splattered aprons sift through piles of duck entrails and leftover duck carcasses. Trainee butlers, destined to work for the new ultra-rich Chinese, are briefed on the use of cutlery and the importance of remaining impassive in the face of unreasonable behavior. And in a deserted mall in a ghost town, built by developers but later abandoned, stands the world’s saddest ostrich, alone in a spooky petting zoo, an attraction for shoppers who are never Venus.

Jessica Kingdon’s fascinating observational documentary, which examines aspiration, manufacturing, consumption and waste in China, is full of such intriguing snapshots. Accompanied by a flexible and organic score by Dan Deacon, who weaves the rhythms of industry and technology into the music, the film is a mosaic portrait of the realities and repercussions of the “Chinese dream”.

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