Hot Docs: New Castle [2011, Guo Hengqi]

Toronto – China’s rise from impoverish nation to economic power has not come without costs. New Castle is a documentary that provides us with a quick but devastating glimpse at the high prices the Chinese people had to pay for their country to prosper. Taking a no bullshit approach, film maker Guo Hengqi shows the entire film without narration, relying on conversations and testimonials from people to provide the tale. A three part act, we are first taken to the hillside and meet a group of roving miners who have arrived for a quick job. if the job did not pay sufficiently, they seek out another place. The group of miners decide to stay and we are shown the lives of a miner. It’s as what you would expect – dirty, dangerous and unforgiving. The first time you see a pitch black minor returning from a day at the mind will have you thankful for whatever boring desk job you might have. The next two acts play out in Xinbu, an ancient village located in the remote province of Shanxi. People have been leaving this village in droves for the larger cities and now with a population of less than a hundred, the government has decided to move the people of Xinbu and destroy the town. Obviously, the citizens of the city are not pleased and we follow the villagers as they attempt to make sense of what is becoming of their life as traditions are abandoned and they are basically forced to move into government built row houses.

Ultimately a rather depressing documentary about the state of rural China, New Castle does not paint a pretty picture but it paints a truthful picture. While a lack of narration might have the viewer’s guessing at some points, the conversations between villagers, minors and family members will keep you engaged. Some of the visuals within the documentary are breathtaking and this documentary will definitely be interesting to those who wonder about some of the costs of rapid modernization of any country. My only complaint is that the pacing is rather pedestrian and so the 112 minute documentary feels like a 112 minute documentary.

Co-presented with Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival

Fri, Apr 29 6:15 PM
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Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs

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Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.

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