Ascension the Documentary is this year’s frontrunner for the Oscar. Jessica Kingdon’s observational nonfiction feature entry is Godfrey Reggio’s “Koyaanisqatsi” (1983) redux. It presents contemporary Chinese society in a stream of vignettes with no voiceover or obvious narrative all the while being accompanied by a pulsating score (then Philip Glass, now Dan Deacon).
Basically, divided into three sections focusing on the factory workers, the growing middle class and the rich, the movie swings from the banal (the opening hiring montage) to the bizarre and inspired (the sex-doll section). The viewer’s interest naturally falls and rises while, gradually, you begin to detect a theme, a theme which, ironically, is identical to the one Reggio was presenting with his amazing images of the United States almost forty years ago: “Koyaanisqatsi” is a Hopi Native-American word for “life out of balance” which fits perfectly with Kingdon’s presentation of modern China.