MANILA, Philippines—What a strange coincidence for Chinese filmmaker Chen Kaige’s tragicomedy “Caught in the Web,” one of six feature films in the 9th Chinese Spring Film Festival running until Feb. 22 at Shangri-La Plaza Mall, to be released the same year the #amalayer spectacle happened.
In 2012, a young Filipino woman was caught by hidden camera yelling at a Manila train-station woman guard; she was complaining about security inspections of passengers.
The phone-camera (amateur) video went viral, exposing the subject to cyber-bullying and countless spoofs of her slangy “So you’re telling me I’m a liar? I’m a liar? I’m a liar?” outburst. It even became a song, for crying out loud.
Though she should have kept her temper in check, the irate commuter could also have been going through a terrible day—but nobody cared.
Invasion of privacy
Did we upload, forward, share, repost, retweet That Great Masterpiece of Street Videography—delightedly creating memes and parodies to mock a person who could have been anyone of us in the first place?
Did we cyber-stalk and invade her privacy to find more things about her to ridicule? Did we know she became suicidal?
The tale of “Caught in the Web” runs in the same vein; the plot kicks off with an office employee named Ye refusing to relinquish her bus seat to a senior.
“You want a seat? Here,” she demurely challenges the old man, lightly patting the edge of her lap twice.
The other passengers, infuriated by the young woman’s rude behavior, gang up on her. And who would happen to be there to capture the shaming of the shrew? Lo and behold, it’s a young broadcast-journ intern!
This movie about cyber and social ills introduces characters as caricatures: the melancholy white-collar drone; the overly earnest boss; the overindulged housewife; the struggling, underpaid journalist; the unemployed moocher boyfriend.
There’s quite a number of them and, though some you might find flimsy and/or annoying, they all have roles to play in cowriters Chen and Danian Tang’s screen adaptation of Liang Wen’s novel “Wang Shi.”
If the first half is frivolous and sometimes absurd, the second half delivers a melodramatic arc, which highlights some very fine acting from Gao Yuanyuan (as Ye Lanqiu), Yao Chen (news producer Ruoxi Chen), Wang Xueqi (CEO Liushu Shen) and the director’s wife Hong Chen (the CEO’s spoiled wife). The light to foreboding progression seems logical for a story that zooms in on our unhealthy tendencies in social media, and for taking some new media content perhaps a little too seriously.
“Caught in the Web” makes a statement about censorship of cyber speech and activity while advocating—for both consumers and those who cause proliferation—responsibility and a sense of liability.
Chen Kaige, who also directed 1993’s Oscar-nominated film “Farewell My Concubine,” won’t be the only master filmmaker to share a cinematic viewpoint at this year’s edition of the Chinese film fest.
Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster,” which racked up creative and technical awards from Hong Kong award-giving bodies, will also be screened along with full-length animation “Legend of Kung Fu Rabbit”; romantic movie “Love Deposit”; family drama “Sunlight on Fingertips”; and crime drama “Beijing Blues.”
The 9th Spring Film Festival will run until Feb. 22 at Shangri-La Plaza Cineplex. Admission is free on a first-come, first-served basis.