This week's screening at the Whanganui Film Society gives a rare insight into the world of Chinese politics.
The city of Datong is China's most polluted, crippled by decrepit infrastructure and even shakier economic prospects. But Mayor Geng Yanbo plans to transform it utterly. He will return Datong to its former glory, the cultural capital it was a mere 1,600 years earlier. Thousands of homes are being bulldozed, and a half-million residents relocated.
In The Chinese Mayor, the audience is at his side as he's besieged by petitioning citizens, as he bawls out recalcitrant contractors and bureaucrats, or second-guesses the ruling elite who can overturn his election at any moment; and as he takes calls from his exasperated wife. She'd like to see him once in a while.
Produced by Zhao Qi, a veteran of the Chinese state media network China Central Television, and directed by Zhou Hao, a veteran of investigative documentary, The Chinese Mayor combines the best of both worlds - access to power, and critical acumen - to show the staggeringly high stakes at play as China seeks to remake itself.
Robert Greene from Sight & Sound wrote: "Remarkable not only for its unprecedented access to such a high-ranking Chinese official but for its astonishing restraint and subtlety. Lurking just beneath Hao's coolly observational style is a meta-freakout at the sheer insanity of the access and its potential consequences."
The Chinese Mayor will screen on September 5 at 7pm at the Davis Theatre. You must be a member to attend this screening. For more details, including membership information, visit www.whanganuifilmsociety.org.nz.