CAAMFest 2013: High Tech, Low Life

After catching the fantastic LINSANITY documentary film during the kickoff of CAAMFest 2013, I caught the two films Comrade Kim Goes Flying and High Tech, Low Life on Saturday night.

High Tech, Low Life

Of any documentary film I’ve seen, this documentary is probably the most relevant to me as a blogger for 8asians.com. High Tech, Low Life follows two Chinese citizen journalist (“netizens”) bloggers, Zola and Tiger Temple as they try to blog about the stories that are officially censored within China, from stories of corrupt government officials, covered up murders to environmental damage to rural provinces where Chinese citizens are voiceless and ignored. Zola and Tiger are always playing a cat-and-mouse game online as well as in real life as they carefully balance trying to report the news as they see it with their own safety and the safety of the subjects of their stories. Zola is a twenty-something-looking kid and admittedly a bit narcissistic, while Tiger is in his fifties and often feels conflicted and tries to help those in need that he is blogging about.

As you may know, the Chinese government controls the media and the Internet quite tightly, but the rules online are not always so clear. China has implemented technology measures to block access within China to sites to many sensitive topics, including the three T’s – Tiananmen Square, Tibet, Taiwan as well as subjects like Falun Gong. The measures to censor the Internet within China is known as The Great Firewall of China, and why I find Zola’s self-portrait photo at the Great Wall of China very inspiring – as he literally trying to leap over the Great Wall physically and metaphorically:

zola-2-630x400

which kind of bring chills and makes me reminisce about Tiananmen Square’s Tank Man. According to Zola, there are over 500,000 websites blocked in China at any one time with government agencies as well as some privately contracted companies that actively monitor and block web sites.

The film was somewhat slower paced, but was never boring. I wondered why the Chinese government does not more widely ban and censor these websites more actively. Even Zola and Tiger explained that simply reporting or criticizing about something will not get you quickly banned Рbut definitely anything trying to organize  or collectively act out or against will. Different topics are sensitive at different times of the year. What is allowed or not allowed is unknown and the only way to know is to cross an invisible line and later discover the consequences.

After the documentary screened, filmmaker Stephen Maing addressed the audiences questions, which he answers below. If you are at all interested in blogging, citizen journalism or Chinese Internet censorship, you really have to see this film and see how bloggers like Zola and Tiger are trying to make a difference in China.

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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