While not intended to be a comedy, this documentary certainly amused punters at the Brisbane International Film Festival. Recording the process of engaging 100 architects from around the world to contribute to a mass housing development in a newly established area of China, this documentary opens with someone holding up a Ordos 100 sign at the arrivals gate to allow the participants to make themselves known to the Chinese welcome party. A slightly pointless exercise given its fairly obvious who the carefully (black) clad, satchel holding foreigners are. We then follow as roles are marked, buses are boarded and speeches are practiced. Anyone who's ever attended a conference knows how trivialising these things are. Unfortunately it is this absurdity that steals the limelight in the documentary. Director, Ai Weiwei, who was involved in the Birdsnest stadium for the Beijing Olympics, has said that the project was less about the actual buildings and more about the big idea of bringing together a brains trust and creating a new movement of architecture. A high aspiration but a little unfair for a film about architecture to feature so little. What we do see is plenty of earnest debate, a long sequence showing the ballot for site selection and many informal interviews with architects as they busy themselves with other things. Like shaving. Or unpacking. Try saying something profound while you are taking your shoes and socks off. It's a shame because the small amount we do see of the resultant designs is captivating. The concept schemes differ so vastly from each other that it's difficult to believe that each had the same brief. But we don't get any commentary on that. We get a debate about the currency for payment and the logistics of handing out cash to the participants. Oh and another bus trip.
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