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ASCENSION (2021, USA) Movie review, plot, trailer, rating

China has been a real factory in the world for some time now and I just can’t help but wonder how it has completely lagged behind, mostly rural society in just a few decades has developed into perhaps the world’s greatest power. For me, China is a complete phenomenon, at the same time a fascinating and frightening world, and this is exactly what this extraordinary observational documentary made by the American filmmaker of Chinese origin Jessica Kingdon is like. Although “Ascension” was filmed in an American production, it is a documentary that without any comment by the author brings an incredible insight into modern China by focusing on the search for something that could be called the Chinese dream. A kind of counterpart of the American dream, an unattainable desire and longing for a society in which everyone has the opportunity to get rich and succeed, although this, of course, will not happen.

From the first to the last sequences, “Ascencion” brings a great insight into Chinese society and views on the life of the locals, but also the unimaginable differences that exist there in class and wealth. We see here all the splendor and misery of modern China and Kingdon follows various groups of people here as they do their daily chores, as they learn some new skills and as they live their daily lives. Nathan Truesdall’s photography is fantastic. We have wonderful aerial photographs, masterfully composed shots in which you can read in the background those typical communist slogans screaming from the facades of buildings while everything below looks like a scene from a science fiction movie. Kingdon takes us to those still rather primitive factories where work is still done by hand, through the butler school for the richest members of society to fuck doll factories, courses for influencers and life and business coaches, and training for security guards.

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There is no comment from the author, she and her team simply record what is happening in front of them with a camera, and the whole series of short lines and stories from Chinese everyday life is masterfully arranged in the montage. There is no main protagonist whose fate is being monitored, but Kingdon is filming countless people who act as if there are no cameras. It is only at the very beginning that “Ascenscion” may act as one of those films that could do research on poor working conditions in the factories there, but it quickly becomes clear to us that this is a documentary that tries to dig much deeper. Kingdon is definitely and without any narration achieving what she envisioned – for a Western viewer to understand at least some of the subtext and how Chinese society increasingly resembles modern Western society. And not only that, as it has already surpassed it in many segments.

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It is a society that is also already fully focused on consumerism and consumption, mass production and the desire of the individual to try to get rich as soon as possible. So in one scene we have footage of a job store in a huge square where thousands and thousands of people gather, and over the loudspeaker you can hear who is looking for workers for what job. It all seems incredibly futuristic, unreal, dystopian, especially when we move to an erotic doll factory. In a conversation between people or in the annual speech of the head of a corporation, we hear how obsessed everyone is to surpass America in terms of GDP. It all seems to me completely dehumanizing, inhuman, absurd and completely insane, as if some perfect bullshit of communist utopia has been achieved about people brainwashed by loyal parties and committed to some national goal, and at the same time almost like the world from Huxley’s “Great New World” they dream of attaining wealth, simple pleasures with a complete renunciation of their own will and thinking. Everything for the purpose of monetizing anything and what cannot be cashed in has no value. Rating 9/10. 

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