Starring: Xi Jinping
Director: Wei Tie
Running Time: 90 mins
Amazing China is a Chinese documentary about the country’s achievements in the years since President Xi Jinping came to power, ranging from its world-leading successes in engineering to its wide-reaching social programs.
For all intents and purposes, Amazing China is a propaganda movie. Its brash boastfulness is rather vulgar to say the least, and although it may make some Chinese viewers feel proud of their country’s achievements, I can’t really see any other purpose to it than simple propaganda.
However, I want to look at this film from a different angle, because, although being a propaganda movie by no means leaves a particularly good impression for you as a viewer, it’s a little unfair to completely write off Amazing China just for what it is.
Despite that, most of the film is a rather poor attempt at documentary filmmaking, above all failing to grab your attention for even a second due to a painfully boring and repetitive series of vignettes focusing on various engineering projects and social policies, without really going any deeper to give more context that could have made the film a little more interesting.
Inevitably, this film’s main objective is to showcase China’s greatest achievements in recent years, particularly since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, and while the country’s rise to global superpower is undeniable, simply boasting about how China is number one in various fields doesn’t make for an interesting watch for you as a viewer.
If there was a little bit of context that showed where the country had come from, comparing how it wasn’t so advanced in certain areas in the past, and then showing how great it has become, then I would have been a lot more interested, because there’s at least a little bit of narrative to care about, rather than just being forced to sit there for an hour and a half marvelling at how great various achievements are.
Another major issue is just how repetitive and formulaic the film is. As I said, there’s no narrative being created here, but rather a series of vignettes about various achievements that just follow the same formula and order again and again and again. From cranes to trains, from oil rigs to bridges, and a whole lot more, all that this film really offers is a series of five to ten minute-long little episodes that gives some facts about how the things work, then how China is becoming a world leader in the industry, and then a small clip of Xi Jinping himself coming to inspect and praise the work that has been done, with a customary inspiring speech afterwards.
That formula is repeated at least ten times throughout the film, to the point where it’s just maddeningly repetitive, frustrating and boring me to the point of near insanity. If you’re really interested in big engineering projects, then there’s a bit more to impress you, but for the rest of us, there really is nothing that will grab your attention about this film, leaving only its endlessly repetitive formula (and painfully ceaseless soundtrack) to focus on.
Not to say that the film is all bad. While most of it is fairly unwatchable due to such dull content and such poor directing, there are moments that prove somewhat more engaging or impressive. Above all, the visuals aren’t all that bad, with some very impressive shots of some of the enormous projects that China has undertaken, emphasising their scale brilliantly, often in front of fantastic scenery.
And also, even though the majority of the film is just about various engineering achievements, there are a couple of small vignettes that focus on more human and natural elements, and they are far more interesting to follow. Although not particularly enthralling, and still not deviating from the film’s propaganda intentions, they do have a little more depth and beauty than simply boasting about having an enormous oil rig or something.
Overall, however, I really don’t recommend you watch Amazing China. Despite impressive visuals, the film is a poorly-made documentary that fails to grab your attention with even the slightest hint of a narrative. Throughout, it’s full of brash and boastful vignettes that are painfully boring and repetitive, to such an extent that you will feel like you’re trapped in an endless loop of patriotism, and that makes for an incredibly unpleasant watch, which is why I’m giving it a 3.9.