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As an entire generation has come of age on social media, virtual relationships are slowly replacing real-life human connections. And China has taken it to an extreme. Here, live streaming has become the most popular online entertainment for hundreds of millions. People's Republic of Desire provides a vérité journey into this digital universe, where young performers earn as much as US$150,000 a month singing, dancing or doing talk shows to live, interactive audiences of tens of thousands. Their fans include China's super rich, who each night lavish virtual gifts on their favorite performers (40% of the money paid for these gifts go to the performers), and the dirt poor, many of them migrant workers in urban areas searching for a cheap way to be entertained, to feel connected. The film follows three young characters - a singer, a comedian, and a migrant worker - as they search for fame, fortune and human connection in live streaming. We also meet their families, those managing the ...
Together Alone - How a Country of Over 1 Billion Finds Community Online, with Cash
There are few documentaries about China that immerse the viewer without judgement. Hao Wu's second film, detailing the online world of live streaming where amateur stars make millions, fans spend their hard earned money giving virtual gifts, and the mega rich pick the winners, is at times touching, sad, and provocative.
Live streamers, like movie stars and performers anywhere in the world, struggle off stage with self doubt and the pressures of keeping their fans engaged (and paying). With footage of their day-to-day frustrations, Hao Wu drops the veneer of fame and reveals the raw, and often times emotional weight of the strivers, the viewers, and those who have "made it." Happiness eludes them all.
As commentary, without the usual heavy dose of preaching, "The People's Republic of Desire" opens up a world most outside of China will never see. As any great documentary does (the film won the SXSW Grand Jury Prize), that view is honest and engaging throughout. For a generation that spends most of its waking life online their present-day obsession has quickly spread to the U.S., South Korea and beyond.
Definitely worth seeing when it makes its week-long run in NYC and LA this November.
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