|Cheng Cheng, Xiaofei and Luo Lei|
which will be shown at 4:10 Sunday afternoon)
This fascinating documentary follows the campaign of three elementary school third graders, two boys and one girl, to become the first elected Class Monitor in China, where monitors traditionally were appointed by teachers.
This may be the first democratic election of its kind in China, but each candidate at least to some degree demonstrates adroitness in the art of courting voters. These skills can be found in students in almost any school in the United States or most anywhere else in the world. And that's one of the remarkable aspects of the film: that while some of the specifics are particular to China, the general approach to getting votes is pretty much universal.
Good debating skills - poise, pointing out the faults of one's opponent - are important and do have their effect. But there are other tactics that are also, perhaps even more, significant. These include dirty tricks, promises of appointments to lesser class roles, other forms of bribery, and just outright nastiness. All three candidates are coached, if not controlled outright, by their parents. In this regard the two boys have a distinct advantage over their female competitor. She is being raised by a single mother, while the boys not only have both parents, but those parents are in positions of some power and influence. Bottom line? Being well connected to someone who can help you buy votes always has a significant impact.
It's easy to see why Please Vote For Me was a NY Times Critics Pick by A.O. Scott, whom I respect immensely. It's a remarkable work that I look forward to watching again in the future.
ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars, very highly recommended.
Both Please Vote For Me and New Beijing: Reinventing a City are part of the documentary film series Visions of a New China, which runs though October 29th. For the series schedule, information about the films, and to order tickets, click here.
Note that in addition to the film's trailer, there are several other clips from it that are available at YouTube.