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Ascension

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China

2021

1h 37m

Director Jessica Kingdon

Starring

Genre Documentary

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The documentary explores everyday life in contemporary China through the lens of consumerism, innovation, and productivity. The camera captures the ever-widening gap between different social classes and the working class's relentless pursuit of the "Chinese Dream" through long hours and the accumulation of material wealth.

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WHAT ARE CRITICS SAYING?

70

Film Threat by

It empowers Chinese citizens while also shining a light on the exploitation and oppression they face in the workplace and job market.
90

Screen Daily by Allan Hunter

Never appearing to judge any situation, Kingdon confidently allows the images to tell a fascinating, universal story of inequality and class division, revealing a country that feels more like a capitalist society than anyone’s idea of a Communist state.
90

The Hollywood Reporter by Dan Fienberg

Presented with no narrative and limited structure, Ascension is a collection of breathtaking images and revelatory vignettes that position China as a simultaneously alien and completely universal cultural and industrial landscape, never spelling out which direction points toward progress.
90

Los Angeles Times by Roxana Hadadi

Through her unfussy direction and sly editing, Kingdon’s collection of vignettes is a reminder that the destructively frenzied cycle of consumption and waste always trickles down.
91

The Playlist by Warren Cantrell

Stylistically, Ascension borrows from the city-symphony genre at times, with long stretches passing without any dialogue as the camera whips past and through recycling depots, cell phone assembly lines, and poultry plants. There are no talking heads in the picture or any camera-facing reflections to guide the audience along a narrative, making it less cinéma vérité and more direct cinema in style. It is an effective approach.