A film by Jessica Kingdon
2021, 97 minutes
No. 352

2022 Academy Award Nominee | Best Documentary Feature

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.

Nominee, Best Documentary Feature, 2022 Academy Awards
Nominee, Best Documentary, Director's Guild Awards
Nominee, Best Documentary, Producer's Guild Awards
Nominee, Best Documentary, Gotham Awards
Nominee, Best Documentary, Independent Spirit Awards
Winner, Best Documentary Feature, Tribeca Film Festival
Winner, Best Direction, Documentary Feature, Tacoma Film Festival
Winner, Dest Documentary Feature, Hamptons International Film Festival

“An enthralling documentary that spellbindingly heads into myriad corners of China’s increasingly stratified economic classes… Everything we use every day is the product of someone else’s labor. Cellphones and computers, water bottles and plastic cutlery, soap dispensers and blankets are all items in one gigantic interconnected chain of global capitalism that the documentary Ascension explores with curiosity, candor and criticism.” – LA Times

“A revelatory film. Shockingly incisive. As engrossing as it’s alarming, the documentary flows with a stream of consciousness about the illusion of the 'Chinese Dream.’” –