Factory workers diligently parse fabrics and prepare plastic products—like water bottles and binoculars—in clusters and in an assembly line. Men weld metal cylinders with precision, and a networking conference devotes its attention to training a predominantly female audience how to excel in business etiquette.
These and many other absorbing vignettes are what make up the central focus of Jessica Kingdon’s Ascension: an exploration of contemporary China’s identity as it relates to its vision of consumerism, innovation, and social standing. Kingdon’s rich and unobtrusive access into these arenas captures revealing moments with impressive patience and restraint—but also with surprising moments of humor. The film’s curious and observational lens delivers a hypnotic quality in its visuals, immersing the viewer in the stark differences between social classes, and how the struggles of the working class are laid bare in trying to realize the “Chinese Dream.” Implementing a large-scale visual canvas, Kingdon scrutinizes China’s imposing standing as a global superpower and embeds the viewer in the work ethic and lifestyle of its citizens—showcasing their collective pursuit of success through hard labor and material wealth.
Jessica Kingdon directed Commodity City and Routine Island, and co-directed It’s Coming!. She was recognized by 25 New Faces of Independent Film and as one of DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40. Her work received support from organizations including San Francisco International Film Festival, Chicken & Egg, Cinereach, and Sundance.