In China, public infrastructure is executed with staggering intent. In cities of millions and millions, public space becomes incredibly important — old folks need tables to play cards on, or leg-swinging machines in which to swing their legs. Families need bathrooms, public art, all kinds of things. For that reason, China’s public parks can be fascinating microcosms of human interaction, where people come together to dance, exercise, talk, sleep, or watch historical dramas on their phones.
That’s the thinking behind director Jonathan Bregel’s new short film, simply titled People’s Park.
“Filmed in a total of 36 hours over the course of six days in June 2018, People’s Park is a foreigner’s observation of one of Shanghai’s public parks,” he writes. “On a personal note; People’s Park is the location where my fiancée and I had our first date in April 2017.”
Over the course of the 45-minute film, we see elderly folk engaging in group aerobics, a young saxophonist in a lesson with his instructor, teenage girls vying for a perfect selfie as the sun sets around them, and countless other tiny, authentic moments of nothingness. The sense of voyeurism is immense, forcing you to spend three-quarters of an hour as a fly on the wall of this public space. Concept, visuals, and pacing come together to create a hypnotic viewing experience.
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