People's Republic of Desire

Documentary maker Hao Wu looks at China’s live-streaming culture, profiling a couple individuals who have become celebrities by broadcasting themselves online and several fans of live-streaming programs who live in near-poverty. As with many 21st-century Chinese films (both fiction and documentary), the overarching theme is the societal breakdown engendered by the nation’s market reforms. Wu draws attention to the live-streamers’ struggle to remain popular (they generate income based on viewers giving them gifts), revealing them to be not so different from the hard-working migrant laborers who comprise much of their audience. In this thematic emphasis, Wu points to the hollowness of a lot of Internet culture—his subjects are bound by a desire to lose themselves in a fleeting sense of fame. In Mandarin with subtitles.