High Tech, Low Life


Two Chinese bloggers are the focus of High Tech, Low Life, but what’s most revealing about Steve Maing’s documentary aren’t the ways in which the central pair duck official censorship and the threat of government retaliation to report on their country. Instead, it’s their different attitudes toward their practice. As young Zola and late-middle-aged Tiger Temple (both noms de guerre) ply their muckraking trade, the variations in their journalistic philosophies become stark. For Zola, reporting on citizens being evicted to make way for new developments, or on a rape/murder case hushed up by the government, is a chance to self-promote, cheekily including himself in every picture he snaps, even as he remains committed to bringing hidden information to the masses. The more austere Temple, biking thousands of miles to report from remote areas, provides more in-depth analysis of every story, sometimes personally aiding the victims of government policy. The differences are explicitly addressed in the inevitable, slightly superfluous meeting between the two, in which the younger generation is defined as more individualist-minded than its elders. But whatever their orientation, both men are intrepid in pursuing the truth, the consequences of which are made clear in a series of terrifying late-film crackdowns.