Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Plastic China (2016) Sundance 2017

To say that Plastic China is an eye opener is an understatement. An look at a onetime farmer who now runs a plastic recycling plant and is just getting by the film is a glaring example of the gulf between the haves and have nots in modern day China.

Plastic waste from all over the world is shipped to China where it is shred and then recycled. The tedious work of sorting all the refuse is done by poorly paid workers. Kun and his family does most of the work with the help of Peng who get paid a couple of dollars a day - which he promptly drinks leaving nothing for his own family to live on.

While many films have shown the disparity between the classes in China none have done so graphically. Kun and his family are not particularly well off and we watch as the various bit of waste come through their hands hinting at a better life that they can only dream of. To be certain Kun is better off than Peng, but at the same time he isn’t making a killing. We watch as everyone in the film dreams of a better life. This is not the sort of thing I’m guessing the Chinese Communist Party are really going to want us to see since the platitudes we hear from Chairman Mao are seen woefully out of touch with the lives Kun and family are living.

Director Jiuliang Wang has made and film that forces us to sit up and take notice. Not really taking a stand as to what we are seeing the film appears to be more or less a record of the lives of everyone involved. Events simply play out without any sort of commentary. The result is a film that places us in the lives of people on the outer edge of people who are part of the largest market in the world. Yes we’ve seen the poverty in other films but rarely have we seen the vastness of the divide.

To be honest this is a film I need to see a second time. It’s not that there is too much to take in or anything like that rather it’s that my expectations were shaken up, the film didn’t go where I expected and I need to see it again so I can get past the “oh wow” factor I kind of felt. More simply put it kicked up stuff I’m still processing and I need a second time through to help order all my feelings. (the downside of festival screenings is you only get one time through.)

PLASTIC CHINA was literally the first film I saw in 2017 and it was a great way to start the film year.

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