Maddie Crichton ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
This week I switched things up a bit when I selected my foreign film and chose a documentary.
Please Vote For Me (2007) follows a third grade class in China that is holding the first democratic student elections in Chinese history. Three candidates, Lou Lei, Cheng Cheng, and Xu Xiaofie were chosen by the teachers at the school to run for Class Monitor. The documentary observes both the classroom and the home lives of the three students running to showcase their feelings, worries, and most importantly, their campaigns.
The story opens up with the kids in the school being asked what a democracy is. None of the children had heard the term before. In fact, they did not even know what “voting” meant. So, when they learned that they would be participating in an election, they were thrilled. It was exciting to see young kids feel so free and empowered.
What I liked most about watching a foreign documentary is that it gives insight on what a country and its culture are like. Nothing is scripted, fictionalized, or exaggerated. It is all real, and therefore more accurate than any movie could be.
The three candidates are each interesting characters. Lou Lei is a tough, controlling child who bought votes from the students in his class by giving them presents. Cheng Cheng is a bold child, and his strategy was to bring his opponents down so that he could look superior. Xu Xiaofie is a shy girl, who had no idea to go about campaigning. She eventually felt cornered into taking Cheng’s system and tried to get her classmates to see the faults of the other candidates.
The best pieces of this film are when it looks at the children’s home lives. The director, Weijun Chen, found excellent moments with between the students and their parents that highlighted the kid’s motivations and insecurities when it came to the election.
As to be expected, the parents of the children running for Class Monitor were incredibly supportive. The first thing they did when their children told them the news was ask how they could help, and started giving them advice on how to compose themselves as candidates. What was so shocking, however, was how quick the parents were to encourage their children to sabotage the other opponents. Each parent either compared their child to the other candidates, or told them that the best plan was to find the faults of each candidate and reveal them to the class.
This behavior translated directly to what happened in the classroom. Kids started mean chants to the candidates, built teams against one another, and picked little fights. Their teacher had to scold them to make sure that their freedom to choose was not too much for them to handle.
There is no narration in this film, so everything heard was from the children and the parents or other adults. This gives the audience a feeling as if they are actually a part of this election; there is no third party dethatching them from the story. It also made the documentary feel very authentic. For me, personally, this style choice made me get very attached to the situation and characters. I found myself getting very invested in the election, and when it came time for the results, I was on the edge of my seat.
This is an excellent documentary, and by far the most powerful foreign film I have seen so far. It approaches the children and the situation in a unique but realistic way. Please Vote For Me is definitely worth a watch.
Overall Grade: A