Shanghai Panic, 2001

Based on a banned novel by underground writer Mian Mian entitled Welcome to Panic, Andrew Cheng’s socially relevant, but technically uneven digital video pseudo-documentary follows a close-knit group of rootless, young adults (apparently played by Mian Mian and her circle of friends) in the urban jungle of Shanghai as a male friend – perhaps struggling to come to terms with the implications of his homosexuality – becomes convinced that he has contracted AIDS. Broaching issues of privacy, confidentiality, escapism, and anonymity in a largely impersonal, yet tightly controlled and repressive country, Shanghai Panic is a brave and admirable attempt to capture the reality of contemporary Shanghai that, to its detriment, is mired by the filmmaker’s inexperience and meandering focus and becomes diluted in its caustic potency.

©Acquarello 2004. All rights reserved.