REVIEW: The Chinese Mayor

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The Chinese Mayor screens on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at SECCA, on Saturday at 10 a.m. at UNCSA Gold, and on April 26 at 10:30 a.m. at A/perture as part of RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem.

by Sayaka Matsuoka

The Chinese Mayor
The Chinese Mayor

Citizens stand and watch as bulldozers tear down their homes, leaving just clouds of dust and smoke in the air. Children play in the rubble, covering their faces while dirty, stray dogs climb over hunks of broken buildings.

The Chinese Mayor highlights the struggle between the citizens of the once shining capital of imperial China, Datong, and its ambitious communist mayor, Geng Tanbo. The film chronicles Tanbo’s extreme efforts to restore Datong to its royal glory by forcing relocation onto half a million residents from their homes to restore or construct cultural monuments, including a vast city wall. His cultural restoration project aims to take the most polluted city in the People’s Republic and transform it into a vibrant tourist hub.

The film follows the Chinese official’s daily operations with amazing proximity and captures the apathy of the local government. Citizens’ houses are destroyed, leaving many of them homeless because of their inability to pay for the new “affordable housing,” and yet the dream of reviving the city repeatedly clouds the Tango’s judgment.

The story is not entirely monolithic, with many citizens supporting the mayor’s actions. Scenes of the mayor’s his nagging wife repeatedly berating the him also add texture to the film.

An intimate look at the local politics of communist China, The Chinese Mayor reveals the inner workings of a world powerhouse struggling to prosper into the future.

The Chinese Mayor, dir. Hao Zhou, 89 mins., 2015

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