it to the Communists to give capitalism a bad name. They haven’t done much for
the reputation of Keynesianism either. The so-called Second Great Leap Forward
was supposed to stimulate the economy through massive infrastructure projects.
However, there have 37 major bridge collapses in China since 2007. It is easy
to understand how those catastrophes happened when you watch Zhang Zanbo’s The Road (trailer here), which screens
during DOC NYC 2016.
nearly four years, Zhang documented the construction of the Xu-Huai Highway
bridge and it is never pretty. The contract means big money to the Loudi Road
& Bridge Company, so VP-“Problem Solver” Mr. Meng is constantly at work.
When rocks from their blasting punch holes in the roof of a granny’s cottage,
he is there on the spot, offering her sixteen bucks for new roofing tiles, take
it or lump it.
Mr. Meng’s standards that was pretty compassionate. Over the course of the
film, we see him deny multiple damage claims from the beleaguered local farmers
and withhold migrant workers’ wages until they will settle for ten percent of
what they are owed. However, he is scrupulously generous with building
inspectors and Communist Party officials. Throughout the film, we constantly
see him and other Loudi executives distributing the famous “red envelopes” to
all the local officials of authority.
up-front matter-of-factness of Loudi managers discussing the bribe money
contained within those red envelops is absolutely staggering. It is also clear
Mr. Meng and his colleagues had no idea how their crooked day-to-day dealings would
look on-screen or the totality of the impact of all that malfeasance when
absorbed in one sitting. As Huma Abedin might say, the “optics” are terrible.
add further irony, the Hunan region was the one-time home of Chairman Mao, so
there will logically be plenty of pageantry and celebration to mark the 90th
anniversary of the Communist Party during the shooting. Despite being beholden
to the Party for public works projects, the Loudi executives are openly
contemptuous of the CCP’s corruption and wasteful inefficiency.
wonders what sort of rushes Zhang showed his subjects, because the business
practices documented in The Road are
shockingly exploitative. Frankly, the resulting doc would be considered
evidence of criminality several times over in a more just jurisdiction. It is hard
to believe this film even exists, much like Nanfu Wang’s courageous Hooligan Sparrow, but the evidence of
our senses will not be denied.
The Road is just an
unbelievably gutsy and revealing film. Zhang documents the callous and
deliberate victimization of villagers and workers over and over and over again.
It is a gritty, up-close-and-personal work of cinematic muckraking, but it becomes
starkly surreal as the hulking, conspicuously shoddy concrete structure takes
shape. Probably the best documentary since Sparrow,
The Road is the single can’t-miss
film at this year’s DOC NYC. Very highly recommended, it screens this Saturday
afternoon (11/12), at the IFC Center.
Labels: Chinese Cinema, DOC NYC '16, Documentary