With remarkable access, Chinese documentary filmmaker Zhou Hao shadows the mayor of the most polluted city in China and his problematic plan to rehabilitate its image, relocating half a million people to create a historic heritage park.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2015
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. We’re 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.
“Remarkable… Lurking just beneath Zhou’s coolly observational style is a meta-freakout at the sheer insanity of the access and its potential consequences.” — Robert Greene, Sight & Sound