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avant-garde_chauvintist wandering through the garden of ideals

Beijing Film Festival

CHINA | Saturday, 7 June 2008 | Views [1026]

Tonight, Mario, Bo, my couch surfer, Frank, and I went to the Beijing Film Festival.  It was much antipated.  It was also interesting that such an event presented itself in a city like Beijing in a country like China. 

Most of the films were foreign (with Chinese subtitles), so there were lots of different things to see.  Only one movie really caught my eye in a week of films shown three a night. 

It's called "Mardi Gras: Made in China."  I think my interest in this needs no explanation.  It is a documentary.  The premise: the journey of Mardi Gras beads from Fuzhou, China, to New Orleans, Louisiana, for festival season. 

They interviewed workers in the factory, the owner of the factory, revelers on Bourbon Street, and the owner of Accent Annex.  All of it was interesting and semi-eye-opening.  It wasn't the best documentary I've ever seen, and the director kind of lost his way in the middle, but I enjoyed it regardless.

The most interesting part, however, was the reactions of the factory workers to pictures of people at Mardi Gras.  For the most part, these young girls had absolutely no idea why they were making cheap necklaces.  They know they have to make a certain amount.  They know their boss is means.  But where they end up...is a mystery. 

So the director enlightened them.  With pictures of boobs.  They started laughing wildly.  They admitted to being embarrassed by the pictures.  They wondered aloud why people would do such things for jewelery they consider "ugly". 

There were some skewed facts.  For instance, the workers were told that the beads are sold for $1-$20 a pair.  It was a big point in the movie.  The workers were astounded that they get paid Y500 a month, and the beads sell for about Y100 EACH.

But I just scoffed at this, knowing they cost that much per GROSS. 

Even still, most of them wind up in the trash, and the cost is still much more than these people are getting paid.  But the shock value was much, much more than it should be. 

One last interesting thing.  They interviewed a lady throughout who was a definitely New Orleans lady.  From Bourbon Street to Esplanade (and I think a little West Bank, too).  She seems a little dense.  She was completely obsessed with Mardi Gras.  But in the end...she was surprisingly enlightened.  She agreed to be interviewed without knowning what the documentary was about.  When they asked her what the cost of people from other countries was to contribute to her fun, she said, "You mean like the people in China who make them?"  Again, she didn't know what the documentary was about.

She then said, "I guess some might be made in the America, but all the little papers say Made in China.  The glass ones used to be made in Czechoslovakia."

They then asked if she wanted to know what the documentary was about.  She said she had a music box when she was a child that played beautiful music.  She got curious and opened up the back, but was disappointed to learn that it was only a metal rod with knicks in it that created the sounds.  "It's kind of like rubbing the dust off of butterfly wings.  Because it won't be able to fly anymore."

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