Ascension Film Review @ Brisbane International Film Festival 2021

'Ascension' 'Ascension'

‘Ascension’ is an American-made documentary by Jessica Kingdon, observing the economic rise of mainland China in recent years.


The style of filmmaking could be compared to Ron Fricke’s ‘Baraka’ and ‘Samsara’ but lacks those film’s meditative state, here we see and hear people at work and get a sense of the mundane.

We start with messages played over loudspeakers on city streets calling out for workers to apply. Factory jobs, some sitting, some standing up and some with dorms nearby provided. We see those factory jobs, some it should be said producing products to be shipped directly to the U.S., the nature of which makes you wonder what the hell these factory workers must think of Westerners.

From there, we see the new industries that have sprung up in the new economy, including a security business that keeps a pet goat as well as workshops on branding and networking. We also observe the new generation of upper middle class who have prospered in this new economy, and how it informs their political thoughts.

This strictly observational style still invites judgement directly on what is unfolding before the audience, but it does allow you to come to your own conclusions more freely too.



It is doubtful many of these factory workers have bright futures ahead of them but there has been growth in the middle class in recent decades. There is an optimism in a country that is on the make even if there is a downside to it. It is also comforting to know that the Chinese dream is no different from the Australian or American dream. Just people trying to get by and do well.

Jessica could have trimmed a few moments here or there for pacing, but the whole remains entertaining.

As a postcard from one country to another showing that we share the same hopes and dreams for better or worse – ‘Ascension’ has something important to say.

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