'Ascension' and the Chinese Dream, with Jessica Kingdon and Kira Simon-Kennedy
Hello from a crypto farm in rural China!
This week Andy talks with the director (Jessica Kingdon) and producer (Kira Simon-Kennedy) of the new film Ascension, a documentary about working life in contemporary China. Ascension has received critical acclaim and garnered major awards and nominations, including being shortlisted for the Academy Awards!
The film features scenes of quotidian working life in a period when the government has begun to promote the “Chinese Dream,” spanning textile and sex doll factories to etiquette school and social media influencers all the way to luxurious water parks and tropical vacation resorts. Together, these scenes raise provocative questions about China’s blindingly rapid development, the uneven pace of upward mobility, and whether China is an exotic outlier or a recognizably modern society, comparable with life in the US and other societies worldwide (all to music by Dan Deacon).
Jessica and Kira took the time to chat with us and many from our Discord community about the film’s initial conception, the origins of the title and Jessica’s own exploration of family history, the strangeness of the major award circuit, and the ethics of making a commercial documentary. They also break down many of the more memorable scenes, including a dinner party among the ultra-rich and a crypto farm in the middle of the countryside.
But for most of us, the easiest way to watch it at home is to subscribe to and stream from Paramount+ (look for trial offers!).
The second half of this episode consists of questions from our Discord members. If you’re interested in joining the conversation with us and tons of other cool people, please think about subscribing! Check us out via Patreon and Substack, contact us via email (email@example.com), Twitter, and the Discord!