April 3, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra
The digital age is a good one to live in. Too rarely do I reflect on that fact. The abilities we have now far exceed those of our ancestors and are expanding faster than I think we know how best to take advantage of. The world is smaller. More crowded, yes, and while making real, substantial connections is perhaps even more difficult than ever with the cascade of people, information and ideas, the possibilities for exchange are there and we need only focus our attention to make connections never before possible. People from around the world are starting to realize the power they have to become part of a larger picture – to tell their stories and share their experiences, observations, insights and dreams. Normal people are making and contributing to conversations that effect world events, thanks to platforms like YouTube, facebook, and even (though I’m still admittedly a little confused why) twitter. Anyone with a camera (which includes virtually anyone with a cell phone, which includes pretty much anyone at all) can document their world and share it with the rest of us. It’s up to us, then, to tune in, relate to and understand those perspectives. Today’s project is an incredible example of how injustice and oppression can and will be brought out from the shadows into the public view.
High Tech, Low Life is a documentary following two Chinese citizen journalists who chronicle their explorations of China’s censorship campaign and the impacts it has on the people under its rule.
Over the past four years we have been tracking the story of two Chinese citizen reporters, 27-year-old ZOLA and 57-year-old TIGER TEMPLE, as they travel throughout mainland China documenting the forgotten villages and urban struggles of a rapidly developing country. What started as a small video project turned into over 600 hours of verite footage that brought us to cities like Beijing, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Xian, Wuhan, Taipei and even Bucharest, Romania, as well as countless small villages deep within China’s countryside.
Sunshine is the best disinfectant. The “Great Firewall” is something to take seriously, and something that I suspect not many of us are abundantly aware of. It’s in all of our best interests, though, to recognize that censorship, no matter where in the world, is an act of oppression against all of us – it effects all of us – it threatens all of us, and we have a responsibility to not just those behind the firewall, but to ourselves who are held out from within, to demand open exchange for all. I hope you’ll join me in helping these stories be told so that the wall might be made visible and known, and one day torn down as a result.