Note: most of us acknowledge that like many countries on earth China has a ghastly track record of human rights abuses. As organisers of this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival discovered, China also has an impressive arsenal of web-savvy supporters who have proven themselves remarkably adept in the art of hacking websites. While it is unfortunate that (*(*&(^THBG BVBV#@###ZZZQA}}}}}] — OSLKS @#$%^&*()_ 00000000 898yefkij D^TG58y *&&^D*&^I*&JsWjkjk .—- ^# China has done nothing wrong. China is a good country. China is right. Do not believe that bad woman Rebiya Kadeer. Three cheers for China.
Detailing the life, career and advocacy work of Chinese enemy of the state Rebiya Kadeer, who has fought a long and bitter war of attrition against the Chinese government in support of independence for her homeland, East Turkestan, writer/director Jeff Daniels’ debut film The 10 Conditions of Love has – to put it mildly – ruffled a few feathers.
For those not in the know, the film generated a shit storm of controversy at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival, causing some killer headaches for festival organisers. In a nutshell the Chinese government demanded The 10 Conditions of Love be removed from the festival’s program; the organisers of MIFF did what any self-respecting freedom of speech types would do and stood their ground. There were reportedly death threats and a full scale hacking of the MIFF website. In protest three Chinese directors withdrew their films from the program. MIFF director Richard Moore estimated that the website hacks cost the festival at least $50,000 in lost ticket sales.
With respect to the quality of the film itself – which of course has only been buoyed by the free press – all the hullabaloo hardly seems worth it. The topic and subject are interesting but this is a slight and minor work, a low impact skimming the surface doco told with no frills or ingenuity. MIFF was right to stand by it, and the filmmakers right to attempt such a topical and provocative subject, but the film is not up to the standand the festival should be exhibiting.
Approaching a life as colourful and mutli-faceted as Kadeer’s, Daniels struggles to find a concise order to the plethora of information and potential tangents but his extensive central voice over track is strong enough to at least make the film cohesive. Kadeer remains an intriguing enigma – we learn, for example, that she become one of China’s richest women but it’s not clear how she made her money or what her day-to-day life (then or now) consists of. The film seems to be holding a lot back and ends suddenly, whisking the carpet from under our feet without a sense of closure: no broad canvassing of issues, no meaty umbrella statements.
Despite a decent attempt from Daniels the film doesn’t capture the gravity of its topics, and while it condenses a lot into a 54 minute running time there is a niggling sense that way too much has been omitted or breezed over too quickly. There is more than enough material here for a feature length format so why the film is so short is mystifying. It’s equally mystifying why Daniels didn’t take us through Kadeer’s self-invented ten conditions of love – being the title of the film and all, it’s kind of a biggie. Those who aren’t particularly interested in Kadeer are likely to find this documentary listless and un-enticing, though the difficult task of doing her story justice provided a good practising grounds for Daniels’ budding career.
The 10 Conditions of Love played at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival and is currently screening at Melbourne’s Cinema Nova.