High Tech, Low Life
Second on Indiewire/Criticwire’s “Top Documentaries of 2012” list, Stephen Maing’s informative film initially introduces us to its protagonist “Zola” standing alone, shirtless and engulfed waist-deep in a sea of lush greenery in rural China. His isolation is merely physical, however, for in his hands is a familiar computer tablet. High Tech, Low Life explores how China’s virtual society relates to its “real” world: the closing of its digital divide, the rise of its netizen culture, and its government’s use of the “Great Firewall.” Documentarian Stephen Maing offers a glimpse past the firewall by way of the brazen young reporter Zola and the seasoned blogger “Tiger Temple,” who bridges China’s information gap by riding miles into the countryside to report on the invisible and forgotten.
Zola’s discovery of the internet inspires his rejection of conformity and collectivism, yet unleashes his thirst for celebrity. Though egotistic, his playful version of news—complete with self-camera shots, video blogs and sarcasm—will resonate with netizens inside and outside of China. Unlike Zola, the humble Tiger Temple’s relationship to censorship is fixed in family history and the memory of unfulfilled promises of the Cultural Revolution. His drive to report is fueled by an unflappable social conscious. Paced by sounds of keyboard clicks layered over images of China’s vast terrain, Maing’s film nudges at the possibilities of change.
Producer: Stephen Maing, Trina Rodriguez
Cinematographer: Stephen Maing
Editor: Stephen Maing, Jonathan Oppenheim
Music: Brendon Anderegg
Kevin Micka: Brad Hyland