People's Republic of Desire

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China | 2018 | 95 minutes | Hao Wu

Take a fascinating journey inside China's digital idol-making universe, where individuals morph into improbable on-line celebrities, captivating millions of viewers and earning hundreds of thousands of dollars by soliciting donations in exchange for virtual connection. Winner of the documentary Grand Jury Prize at the SXSW Film Festival.

"Hao Wu delves into this rapidly expanding virtual ecosystem of live-streaming performers and discovers the darker side of celebrity in a revealing examination of contemporary Chinese internet culture." Justin Lowe - The Hollywood Reporter

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As an entire generation has come of age on social media, virtual relationships are slowly replacing real-life human connection. This modern cultural shift is especially prevalent in China, where live-streaming has become the most popular form of entertainment, online or off, for hundreds of millions. Hao Wu's informing documentary takes audiences into the lives of these online celebrity performers and their fans, from the rich financial patrons to the migrant working poor just looking for a cheap way to be entertained and feel connected. We meet Shen Man, a singer making thousands upon thousands a month for her online shows; in a reversal of fortune, she financially supports her live-in father and stepmother. Then there's "Big Li," a former migrant worker turned virtual celebrity and actual millionaire for his skits and song parodies. Yet despite the constant love and gifts pouring in through their chat rooms, a pervasive sense of loneliness and societal isolation circulates their daily lives. As fast as fortunes and fandom may come, they can disappear quickly in a dizzying array of online hatred and humiliation should the court of public opinion ever shift; for a streamer whose sense of self-worth is a based on virtual gratification, that can have catastrophic real-world impact.

Director Biography
Hao Wu moved to the U.S. in the '90s, receiving an M.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology from Brandeis University as well as an M.B.A from The University of Michigan. In 2004 he moved back to Beijing, China to pursue writing and filmmaking. His first film Beijing or Bust was shown at the 6th annual San Diego Asian Film Festival in 2005.

Sponsored by Aegis Gardens, Hainan Airlines, WASA North America Group, Sponsor-A-Film: Thomas Zimmerman, The Seattle Times

  • Director: Hao Wu
  • Principal Cast: Shen Man, Li Xianliang, Jiang Congyong
  • Premiere Status: Seattle
  • Country: China
  • Year: 2018
  • Running Time: 95 minutes
  • Producer: Hao Wu
  • Screenplay: Hao Wu
  • Cinematographers: Hao Wu, Jingyang Cheng
  • Editors: Hao Wu
  • Music: Michael Tuller
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Awards: SXSW 2018 (Documentary Grand Jury Prize)
  • Filmography: The Road to Fame (2013); Beijing or Bust (2005)
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Format: DCP
  • International Sales: Cinetic Media