Lixin Fan, director of the award-winning Last Train Home, takes a very different look at contemporary China with this documentary that follows the eager young hopefuls who audition for the country's most famous televised singing competition.
I Am Here
Every week, millions of viewers tune in to China's most popular singing competition, Super Boy. Tens of thousands of aspiring male singers audition every year for this prestigious talent show, but only ten make it into the months-long competition. Fan Lixin's documentary I Am Here immerses us in the finalists' gruelling, adrenalizing experience, even as it raises provocative questions about the social context of such a phenomenon.
The world of these young performers is a glossy fantasy, all-consuming and almost too good to be true. Overnight they've been elevated to demigod status, and are now recognized everywhere they go by herds of screaming teenagers. This fame comes at the cost of their identity; vocal coaches, dance teachers, and tyrannical producers exploit easily digestible aspects of the young men's personalities and backgrounds, grooming them in the images of archetypes that audiences can root for. But in a scenario where there can be only one winner, the boys band together, attaining a mutual harmony that extends beyond the singing contest.
Fan, director of the multi-award-winning Last Train Home, gives us a very different look at modern China in his second documentary feature. This time he tackles popular youth culture — the tech-savvy generation armed with smartphones and disposable income — and its palpable obsession with fame. Fan's pitch-perfect editing subverts the conventions of reality-TV techniques, juxtaposing quiet sequences of China's rural landscapes with montages of vibrant youthful energy. With a soundtrack of hits that will be familiar to Chinese and North American filmgoers alike, I Am Here is at once a vivacious ride through the world of modern celebrity and a sharp commentary on the changes occurring in contemporary Chinese culture.