Winner of Asia Pacific Screen Awards’ Best Documentary Feature film in 2015, The Chinese Mayor was written, produced and directed by Zhou Hao and Zhao Qi. Peering into the underbelly of China’s controversial takeover of Datong, the country’s former capital city, The Chinese Mayor opens the blinds on this unprecedented transformation.
The 2014 documentary (released in January, 2015) follows Datong mayor Geng Yanbo’s efforts to transform one of the China’s most polluted cities into a cultural destination. Datong, China’s former capital 16 centuries ago, houses half-a-million residents that must be displaced in order to reconstruct the walls of the Old City. This creates a logistical and political quandary that begs the attention of the outside world.
The film’s American premiere occurred at the Sundance Festival where it was awarded a “Special Jury Award for Unparalleled Access”. The film received favourable reviews, but as of the summer of 2015 the film was still seeking an American distribution partner.
This fascinating and shocking film documents the way gigantic construction projects are allowed to boom or come to a grinding halt at the whims of those in power. The coveted accolade awarded last week should stimulate interest from other festivals, cinemas and broadcasters, giving the film new hopes of distribution in the USA and the West.