FESTIVALS: * Tribeca * Hotdocs * Sheffield Doc/Fest * Sydney Film Festival * CPH:DOX * Stockholm Film Festival * Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival * True/False * CNEX Documentary Festival Taiwan * Little Rock Film Festival * Independent Film Festival Boston * Woods Hole Film Festival * Open City Docs Fest * Milwaukee Film Festival * St. Louis Film Festival * WATCH DOCS. Human Rights in Film International Film Festival * Warsaw * International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva * Naples International Film Festival
AWARDS: * Grierson Award for Best Newcomer Documentary * Nominated for Best Documentary, Tribeca Film Festival *
Best Documentary Special Jury Prize, International Film Festival Boston *
Best Documentary - Golden Rock Award, Little Rock Film Festival *
Best Cinematography Award, Woods Hole Film Festival *
Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary, EBS Int’l Documentary Festival, South Korea *
Emerging International Filmmaker Award, Open City Docs Festival, London, UK
High Tech, Low Life
Conflicts, Current Affairs, Economy, Environment, Human Interest, Human Rights, Investigative Journalism, Justice, Politics, Science, Youth
Running time |
88’ - 58’
Mud Horse Pictures, LLC
Stephen T. Maing, Trina Rodriguez
HIGH TECH, LOW LIFE follows the journey of two of China’s first citizen reporters as they travel the country - chronicling underreported news and social issues stories. Armed with laptops, cell phones, and digital cameras they develop skills as independent one-man news stations while learning to navigate China’s evolving censorship regulations and avoiding the risk of political persecution.
In April 2007, 27-year-old vegetable seller Zhou Shuguang, aka ZOLA, hears about a family in a neighboring province resisting unlawful eviction by city developers. Moved and curious, he decides to close his vegetable stand and see things for himself. After posting reports on “the toughest nailhouse,” his blog receives thousands of hits and requests to report elsewhere. This overnight fame jumpstarts an unexpected career as a roving citizen reporter. Inspired by a search for truth and overnight fame, Zola begins to travel the country, giving his own comedic and provocative take on the news and challenging the boundaries of free speech in China.
Two thousand kilometers away in Beijing, 57-year-old Zhang Shihe, aka TIGER TEMPLE, is dubbed China’s first citizen reporter when he stumbles upon and impulsively documents the scene of a gruesome murder. After his photographs are censored from mainstream media, he is compelled to post them on his blog and commits himself to looking for other untold stories. With one eye on history and the other on the very current struggles of the lives he witnesses, Tiger Temple’s thoughtful use of language and historical reference is a marked contrast to Zola. Strangers to each other, Zola and Tiger Temple share a common desire to offer those within and outside of China a rare glimpse at untold stories - and to stay out of trouble. China’s rapid economic and technological developments have created a vast new social space for a restless blogosphere to step up and fill information gaps left by the state-run media. In this space, citizen reporters can become online heroes and celebrities but they must also learn to walk the risky line between social commentary and perceived political dissidence.
HIGH TECH, LOW LIFE documents the inspired work of these two roving reporters and the achievements of a fearless new digital populace. From the perspective of vastly different generations, Zola and Tiger Temple must both reconcile an evolving sense of individualism, social responsibility and personal sacrifice. The juxtaposition of Zola’s coming-of-age journey from produce vendor to internet celebrity, and Tiger Temple’s commitment to understanding China’s tumultuous past provides an alternate portrait of China and of news-gathering in the 21st century. And at a time when social media is playing an increasingly vital role in social progress around the world, their work asks us to reconsider the value and meaning of journalism.
HAMMER TO NAIL : « An inspiring look at the resilience of the human spirit under China’s totalitarian rule » by Paul Sbrizzi
LIBERTAS FILM MAGAZINE : « HT,LL is a fascinating, alarming, and inspiring film, all at the same time. Clearly the best current events documentary at this year’s Tribeca » by Joe Bendel
VARIETY : "A delightful surprise at the Tribeca Film Festival. A dynamic, highly entertaining documentary." By Roonie Scheib
ON[THE MEDIA] "Its poetry, stunning visuals and intimate encounters with the personal lives of the two traveling bloggers kept me intrigued."
NEWSMOTION.ORG "A stunningly shot documentary which provides an intimate look at modern day China, and the role of citizen journalism in transforming the nation, notorious for press and Internet censorship."
FILMMAKER "Absorbing doc with a unique close-up of two Chinese citizen reporters engaging in the risky business of independent reporting."
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR : STEPHEN MAING, Director | Producer | D.P. | Editor Stephen Maing is a New York based filmmaker. He co-produced and edited the award-winning documentary Lioness and is a fellow of the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Storytelling and Edit Lab and the Independent Feature Project Labs program. He is a grant recipient of the MacArthur Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, and the Independent Television Service. Stephen has worked as a director, shooter and editor on numerous documentary and narrative films and teaches summer classes in documentary cinematography at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston.