The Chinese-language film about a democratic village uprising against corruption known as the “Siege of Wukan” and its aftermath won the best documentary prize at Taiwan’s 2020 Golden Horse Awards, an event sometimes described as Asia’s Oscars. It was an official selection for the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam’s non-competitive Frontlight section, as well as the 2019 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival and the 2019 Vancouver International Film Festival.
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“Lost Course” will screen in virtual cinemas via New York’s Film at Lincoln Center and Los Angeles’ Laemmle Theaters, as well as the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
Divided into two sections, the film tells the story of how local residents of Wukan, a small fishing village in southern China’s Guangdong province, rose up against corrupt local officials to fight back against their land being illegally sold in what became an iconic and unexpected experiment in democracy. Part one follows their grassroots activities as they seek redress by organizing free and fair elections, while part two depicts the collapse of their idealism after the newly elected village government finds itself mired in corruption similar to what they had set out to combat.
Director Jill Li, an independent documentary director, illustrator and former journalist, embedded in Wukan starting in 2011 and shot there over the course of eight years. “The ups and downs of the lives of the villagers serve as a magnifying glass to help us take a closer look at China’s social movements and its complexity,” she said in a statement.
“Lost Course” is her feature-length doc debut, and runs at 180 minutes. It was executive produced and edited by Luke To, and produced by Chai Sheng and Peter Yam (“Yellowing,” “Lost in the Fumes,” “Cube Phantom”).
dGenerate Films Founder and President Karin Chien said she was drawn to Li’s “extraordinary ability to obtain unprecedented access to the electoral process in a Chinese village” and craft “a complex, intimate and honest a portrait of democracy.”
“The film could not be more relevant for American audiences — it provides an un uncanny mirror of our own democratic experiment, exposing the fragility of the people and bonds that hold it together,” she added. Her firm’s collection of independent Chinese titles was acquired by Icarus in 2012.
New York-headquartered documentary distributor Icarus Films was founded in 1978 and represents a catalog of more than 1,000 titles.
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