The Western circuit of vloggers and YouTubers is dwarfed by live-streaming in China, which in a short time has become an industry worth billions. More than 422 million Chinese regularly shared streamed films in 2017.  Strange and extreme are especially popular: a boy who eats live worms or two wrestlers dipped in wet paint. Viewers comment in the form of 'bullets' and reward the 'anchors' with virtual gifts that can be cashed in the real world.

Zhu Shengze followed a dozen anchors for ten months. From more than 800 hours of footage, she distilled a collective portrait of a generation for whom the online and offline worlds are tightly interwoven. Rather than selecting famous anchors with thousands of followers, Zhu chose the more marginal types: a street dancer with a lousy sense of rhythm, a paralysed girl, a middle-aged transvestite, a bored crane driver. They often lead solitary lives, and for them live streaming is a welcome form of human contact, for instance with people who would just ignore them on the street. In fishing for attention, the anchors are extremely openhearted, verging on exhibitionist.
 
The Chinese censor has now clamped down on the phenomenon, and thousands of virtual showrooms have been closed. The rest perform self-censorship. Live streaming is completely apolitical, but the lives that are presented say a lot about contemporary Chinese society and its shortcomings. 

Winner Tiger Award, IFFR 2019

Original title
Wan mei xian zai shi
Filmmaker
Zhu Shengze
Premiere
World premiere
Country
USA, Hong Kong
Year
2019
Medium
DCP
Length
124’
Language
Mandarin
Producer
Zhengfan Yang, Wang Yang
Production Company
Burn The Film, Tender Madness Pictures
Sales
Burn The Film
Editor
Zhu Shengze
Sound Design
Aymeric Dupas