LOST COURSE directed y Jill Li.
LOST COURSE directed by Jill Li. Credit: Courtesy of the dGenerate Collection at Icarus Films.

When corrupt officials illegally sell villagers’ land in China, the villagers rise up in an unprecedented experiment in democracy in first-time documentarian Jill Li’s Lost Course — Winner, Best Documentary Golden Horse Awards 2020, and Official Selections of International Documentary Festival Amsterdam and Hong Kong Asian Film Festival.

From the dGenerate Collection, Icarus Films will release the film in virtual theaters starting Friday, March 5th at Film at Lincoln Center in New York, Laemmle Theatres in Los Angeles and UC Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive.

Embedding herself in a small fishing village in southern China for several years starting in 2011, Li witnessed an unprecedented experiment in local democracy. Corrupt officials had illegally sold villagers’ land, but the villagers decided to fight back.

The documentary is divided into two halves: the first, “Protests,” depicts the grassroots activities of the residents as they work to reverse the land sales and gain a substantial measure of control over their local territory. We see how the villagers themselves learn to organize free and fair elections, form alliances, and win support. Part two, “After Protests,” confronts the collapse of idealism as the newly elected village government finds itself mired in the same kind of corrupt dealings they had originally condemned.

Li reveals the complexities of their triumphs and setbacks from the inside. Her astonishingly intimate, sympathetic and fair-minded access to the events’ major players reveals Chinese local politics with three-dimensional passion and energy.

“The ups and downs of the lives of the villagers serve as a magnifying glass to help us take a closer look at China’s social movements and its complexity,” said director Jill Li.

Jill Li is an independent documentary director, illustrator and ex-journalist. Her work focuses on individual circumstances and choices in the midst of societal changes. “Lost Course” is her directorial feature length documentary debut, awarded at the 57th Golden Horse for Best Documentary, selected for the 2020 IDFA Frontlight Tomorrow’s Classic section, 2021 TIDF Asian Horizon competition, Vancouver International Film Festival 2019 and Hong Kong Asian Film Festival 2019.

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