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Corruption in the open

Film festival HRHW: The road to modern China seems to be paved with the methods of the Wild West, one would believe the documentary The Road.

The Road
Directed and photo: Zanbo Zhang

In 2008, Chinese authorities decided to invest 586 $ 1 billion on infrastructure to boost the economy, a text poster at the beginning of Zanbo Zhang's documentary states The Road.
From a later text poster, we learn that China has built the world's longest motorway system over the past ten years.
More specifically, the film talks about a road project in Hunan Province, which is part of this huge effort. Through four chapters we follow different people who are voluntarily or involuntarily involved in the project. From the first scenes, where an elderly woman complains about how stones from the blasts have fallen through and destroyed her roof, it is obvious that the development does not always take place under equally controlled forms.
Not least, there seem to be an excessive number of contractors and authorities involved, probably motivated by milking a proportion out of the billion grants. And while the project may be lubricating the economy at a national level, there are alarming many at more local levels to be smothered in a less honorable way. Throughout, it is almost exclusively about money, whether it is private individuals who require compensation for building damage or even homes that must be demolished, or it is about regular bribes by public authorities to obtain the necessary permits.

cropped-1_mClear point of view. Director and photographer Zanbo Zhang has a distinctly observational approach to his material, with only a few more interview-like sequences – or rather, characters providing occasional explanations of events along the way. The Road is thus an example of how this type of "fly on the wall" documentaries can also have a clear narrative perspective, and even take a stand. . .

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Aleksander Huser
Huser is a regular film critic in Ny Tid.

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