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by Jialing Zhang


The first major film about the Chinese surveillance state is a disturbing tale of technology, (self-)censorship and abuse of power in the 21st century. Two families fight for justice from within the digital prison. Knowledge is power, and in China the state now knows more about the population than people know about themselves. Surveillance never has just one face, but is a fine-meshed mix of facial recognition, big data analysis and a points system where you can gain and lose points based on your behaviour – a system almost worthy of a dystopian parody, if it wasn’t already a reality. Amidst this spider web of monitoring, the protagonists each fight a battle for justice. Chen’s husband is a human rights activist lawyer who has been imprisoned since 2020 for his legal work. Ever since, her life has been monitored around the clock. We also meet one of the only independent journalists who has had the courage to investigate the shocking developments in the world’s largest country. ‘Total Trust’ is the first major film that intimately portrays courageous people living in China’s increasingly monitored society. An eye-opening and deeply disturbing tale of technology, abuse of power and (self-)censorship, which the Covid pandemic only caused to accelerate at rocket speed.

international title: Total Trust
original title: Total Trust
country: Netherlands, Germany
sales agent: Cinephil
year: 2023
genre: documentary
directed by: Jialing Zhang
film run: 97'
producer: Knut Jäger, Michael Grotenhoff, Saskia Kress, Jialing Zhang
production: Filmtank, Witfilm, NTR, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), Sveriges Television AB - SVT

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