Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Web Junkie: China Wishes the Internet Would Go Away
you can still get addicted to the internet, even when it is heavily censored.
China has become the first nation to official classify internet addiction as a
psychological disorder. To combat the menace of World of Warcraft dependant teenagers, the government has
instituted a network of boot camp style clinics to “cure” the anti-social
gamers. Gaining unprecedented access to the Daxing Boot Camp outside of
Beijing, Israeli filmmakers Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia document their
patients’ response to treatment in Web
opens this Wednesday at Film Forum.
are mostly boys, aged thirteen to eighteen or so. From what viewers see, each
and every one of them are gamers, suggesting the government is censoring the
wrong websites, if they are really concerned about the social development of
younger generations. Since most patient/inmates are either tricked into
entering Daxing or in some cases drugged, the initial adjustment is often a
rough process. However, once resigned to their situation, they typically try to
say and do what they think the staff wants to hear.
the admittedly excessive hours the patients had spent gaming (several uninterrupted
days straight in many cases), none of the featured teens ever expresses any
love or passion for their games. Yet, when a recent arrival stages a successful
escape, they all head directly for an internet café.
most of the kids in treatment seem rather dead inside. Frankly, they might
benefit from access to Ai Weiwei’s blog and information on the real Dalai Lama.
Clearly, they do not relate to either the Party ideology represented by the
camp director or the go-go capitalism practiced by their parents, but they have
nothing to fill that void accept first-person shooters.
and Medalia capture some very real drama, but their strictly observational
approach apparently precluded them from asking any tough questions of the
staff. It would be especially interesting to know how many of their charges are
the sons of Party members, compared to those who come from religious families.
The Chinese Communist Party’s legacy of “re-education” also distractingly hangs
over the film, like an unacknowledged ghost.
Junkie is an eye-opening
look at Chinese spiritual malaise, but it never really attempts to determine if
the internet addiction diagnoses are genuine and whether the Daxing regimen is really
necessary. Frankly, the evidence Shlam and Medalia collect looks rather ambiguous
from a layperson’s standpoint. However, there is clearly a profound
generational gap at play. Recommended for those who closely watch Chinese sociological
developments, Web Junkie opens this
Wednesday (8/6) at New York’s Film Forum. We also wish the best for the Israeli
crew and their families as they bravely confront yet another round of craven
terrorist attacks from Hamas.
Labels: China, Documentary