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People's Republic of Desire

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China · 2018
1h 35m
Director Hao Wu
Genre Documentary

In China’s popular live-streaming showrooms, three millennials – a karaoke singer, a migrant worker and a rags-to-riches comedian – seek fame, fortune and human connection. They quickly discover the same promises and perils online as in their real lives.

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TheWrap by

It’s a well made and, at times, innovative film about the fame and fortune beckoning ordinary people in China’s live-streaming culture, but it plays like a scary science-fiction story come to life.


Film Threat by Alan Ng

The People’s Republic of Desire is a psychological treatise on self-worth, and the lab rats are the citizens of China.


IndieWire by David Ehrlich

Tragic and terrifying in equal measure, Wu’s intimate portrait of China’s live-streaming culture uses one country’s recent past as a dark portal into our collective future, sketching a world in which even the most basic pleasures of human connection can only be experienced vicariously.


Variety by Joe Leydon

People’s Republic of Desire is provocative and unsettling as it brings us on a guided tour through the digital marketplace for something resembling human contact.


The Hollywood Reporter by Justin Lowe

Although live-streaming entertainment may convey the impression of a rather creatively and intellectually impoverished subculture, it’s one that provides comfort and camaraderie for millions who already feel ignored and isolated by China’s rapidly evolving standards of status and wealth.


The A.V. Club by Katie Rife

Wu weaves together the stories of two live-streaming stars, a manager, and a devoted fan to form a portrait not only of the extreme acceleration that defines contemporary Chinese pop culture, but also the bizarre fantasy economy and parasitic interdependencies of late capitalism as a whole.


The New York Times by Ken Jaworowski

You don’t wait for what comes next in People’s Republic of Desire as much as you watch and wonder why any of it is happening. That sensation arises often in this canny documentary about a baffling topic.


Los Angeles Times by Kenneth Turan

Though all these technological trappings are newer than new, the human needs for happiness, applause and emotional connection are classic. The ability of People’s Republic of Desire to show these familiar desires playing out in futuristic surroundings is invariably surprising and never less than compelling.


Movie Nation by Roger Moore

It’s wacky. You scratch your head at the training ground, a veritable digital brothel (quite chaste) where aspiring hostesses learn the art. You wonder who on Earth would spend money for “gifts” that impress these young women (and young men), and are also meant to impress their fellow “fans” with how “rich” you are.

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