Review: High Tech, Low Life

Quinn Banford ’15/ Emertainment Monthly Staff

High Tech, Low Life. Photo Credit: ©2013 High Tech Low Life.
High Tech, Low Life. Photo Credit: ©2013 High Tech Low Life.
High Tech, Low Life follows two Chinese men as they go about resisting the government guerilla-style, fighting strict censorship laws with the modern picket sign: social media. Zola and Tiger Temple make use of their internet access to expose the corrupt use of power in China’s government. The two travel the country from town to city to village in search of an expansion to their free speech.
Zola drives a vegetable cart around Meitanba, population 9000, a job that supports his family’s household. Unmarried and youthful, Zola’s adventurous personality goes beyond the family business. “I used to be a nobody. Until I discovered the internet.” Seeking a name for himself, he reports on stories that would typically slide under the radar. A murder case that was covered up as a suicide is one of these stories. Because of its controversial stance against the initial police report, the story launches his site’s popularity from 200 views to 200,000. Further uncovering and reporting puts Zola in a tough position; when he is invited to a blogger’s conference outside of the country, the government refuses to let him leave out of fear that he is a political threat. Only twenty-six years old and his journalistic talents are already powerful enough to ignite the defenses of the Chinese government. This documentary delivers the “one voice can change the world” theme without idealizing the figure behind the movement. Going behind the scenes with this social blogger reveals the personal and cultural struggles that affect the young internet generation.
In the wake of the booming Chinese blogosphere, our second protagonist, Tiger Temple, represents the older, more conservative citizen who may not have Internet access. His aims are to help out the rural and underrepresented voices that are shadowed by the growing appeal of urbanization. Using social networking as his main weapon, Tiger Temple uses basic camera skills to document the issues with filthy, contaminated water swelling in the countryside. The attention brought onto city growth has hurt the agricultural market. Tiger Temple’s aim is to reveal the destruction of lands and to help rebuild them using social media as a lobbying method to gain more attention into the realm of Chinese politics. It is easy to admire the dedication that he puts forth in order to assist a disadvantaged people. While censorship rings a sad tune to the Internet activists in China, bloggers like Tiger Temple prove that change is not an impossible song to sing. What this documentary provides is the guarantee that the Internet’s usefulness can go beyond the power of jurisdiction; it can bend the rules in the right direction if it pleases.
This documentary provides a necessary insight to the realm of controversial Chinese Internet policies. Through the lenses of Zola and Tiger Temple, the American viewer can compare his or her own free speech limitations with those of these censored activists in China. Zola is the most similar to young Americans, searching for fame and romance. Tiger Temple has a respected subtly in his movements toward exposing corruption or the issues in the government. Both help to extrapolate the issue with censorship and also reveal how disheartening political interference ends up being for the two men. This is a documentary worth seeing if you have a deep respect for your protected rights, an interest in Chinese politics, or enjoy watching the underdog fight against the grain.
Emerson College Students get $5 film tickets, plus free museum admission with their student ID. This applies to undergrads and graduate students.

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