by Jialing Zhang
The first major film about the Chinese surveillance state is a disturbing tale of technology, (self-)censorship and abuse of power in the 21st century. Two families fight for justice from within the digital prison.
Knowledge is power, and in China the state now knows more about the population than people know about themselves. Surveillance never has just one face, but is a fine-meshed mix of facial recognition, big data analysis and a points system where you can gain and lose points based on your behaviour – a system almost worthy of a dystopian parody, if it wasn’t already a reality. Amidst this spider web of monitoring, the protagonists each fight a battle for justice. Chen’s husband is a human rights activist lawyer who has been imprisoned since 2020 for his legal work. Ever since, her life has been monitored around the clock. We also meet one of the only independent journalists who has had the courage to investigate the shocking developments in the world’s largest country. ‘Total Trust’ is the first major film that intimately portrays courageous people living in China’s increasingly monitored society. An eye-opening and deeply disturbing tale of technology, abuse of power and (self-)censorship, which the Covid pandemic only caused to accelerate at rocket speed.
Director: Jialing Zhang
Producers: Knut Jager, Michael Grotenhoff, Saskia Kress, Jialing Zhang, Iris Lammertsma
In co-production with: Interactive Media Foundation, Filmtank, Witfilm
Supported by: Eurimages, Netherlands Film Fund, CoBo Fund, Medien- und Filmgesellschaft Baden-Württemberg, MOIN Filmörderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein
DIRECTOR - JIALING ZHANG
Jialing is an Emmy Award-nominated independent Chinese filmmaker based in Massachusetts. She co-directed and produced One Child Nation, winner of Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize in 2019. She was nominated for a DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary and a PGA Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary. Her directorial debut, Complicit, follows the intimate journey of a benzene-poisoned Chinese migrant worker who takes on the global electronic manufacturing industry premiered at the Human Rights Film Festival in 2017. Jialing worked as a freelance journalist in Beijing for 7 years for various international media outlets. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from NYU.
CPH:DOX 2023〡MOVIES THAT MATTER 2023〡HOT DOCS 2023〡IT'S ALL TRUE 2023 - BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM AWARD〡MILLENNIUM DOCS AGAINST GRAVITY 2023〡SHEFFIELD DOC/FEST 2023〡SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL 2023〡DOKUFEST 2023
"A cautionary tale of technology in the hands of unchecked power, the film lends a voice to those who stand in defiance of it... Through intimate verité scenes, the film will show how a family is gradually integrated into China’s state surveillance system, what it is like to live like that on a day-to-day basis and the resulting trauma."
“A thorough overview of China’s multi-pronged assault on the privacy and rights of its populace”
- Screen Daily