‘Total Trust’ Director Zhang Jialing Talks First Major Film About Chinese State Surveillance (Exclusive)

Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker Jarrin Chan for The One-Child Nation said: variety About her latest film “Total Trust” which is showing in the main competition at CPH:DOX, Copenhagen International Conference Center. documentary festival.

The chilling image of three women and their families fighting for human rights in China, where state control is ubiquitous thanks to advanced technological surveillance such as facial recognition, big data analytics and scoring systems. A story like this is told. their behavior.

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Zhang’s intimate footage provides unprecedented access to the effects of this all-controlling system on the protagonist’s daily life.

“We didn’t just want to make a film about surveillance, we wanted to make a film about people who live in this kind of society. I wanted to reach a certain emotional depth and complexity through the resilience of the characters who keep fighting for themselves and their loved ones, to be safe, and really depending on the situation they’re in. “It’s changed,” she says.

Based in the US and unable to return to China for police records after co-directing “One Child Nation” with Nan Fu Wang in 2016, Zhang directed the entire film remotely. She already had experience working remotely due to travel restrictions when she co-produced Wang’s “In the Same Breath” about her COVID-19 outbreak in China in 2020. is.

With “Total Trust,” she worked with local activists on the ground. They received her remote training in shooting techniques from her Zhang and her team in the United States. Strict communication protocols were introduced, including encrypted messages that disappeared after 24 hours, nicknames, and the use of untraceable SIM-free phones.

Asked about the impact the film had on the lives of the main characters, Chan said they all decided it was their responsibility to participate in raising awareness about each case. He’s been in prison since early 2020, and some journalists have spoken out against the Xi Jinping government, but they’ve also talked about surveillance systems that aren’t just China’s problem.

“That’s what I hope to accomplish with this film. It’s not just China. It’s about the potential dangers of certain technologies.

“This is about how technology can be used for human rights suppression and social control. Western governments are increasingly using data to monitor their own citizens,” she said. , citing recent concerns following the US Supreme Court’s overturning ruling. Data collected from the Law vs. period tracking app could be used to punish women who want abortions, Wade said.

The film tackles not only the issue of state surveillance, but also the silent threat of self-censorship as a result of generations of state control.

“Police live in your mind,” says Zhang. Always think twice before posting anything on WeChat. This inconvenience occurs when your account is blocked because you use it for everything from communication to payments. ”

“Total Trust” also includes clips of government propaganda films, which Zhang explains are increasingly well-crafted. “The storytelling is so good. It’s not just black and white. A lot of times you don’t realize you’ve been brainwashed and it’s much more sophisticated and nuanced than it used to be.”

The film’s title itself is directly inspired by the words of a senior government official who claims that public trust in the government reached 98% at the height of the pandemic.

“98%, almost complete trust,” Zhang smiles. “What about the other 2%? That’s so ironic – it’s not true. Because of propaganda and censorship, we can’t hear them.

“In China, they don’t exist online – their presence is wiped out – they don’t appear in the media, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Young people with critical thinking and access to information.” There are a lot of them,” says Zhang.

‘Total Trust’ was produced by Germany’s Filmtank in collaboration with BBC Storyville and SVT, in collaboration with Witfilm, Interactive Media Foundation, ZDF/ARTE and NTR. Funded by Eurimages, MOIN Film Fund Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, MFG Baden-Württemberg, Netherlands Film Fund, CoBo Fund and backed by Chicken & Egg Pictures.

Cinephil is in charge of world sales.

The film will have its world premiere at CPH:DOX on March 21st. The festival runs until his March 26th in Copenhagen.

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