Creating another slice-of-life pseudo-documentary chronicle of marginalized people living in impoverished slums along the banks of the Suzhou River (and in the process, deconstructs the romantic vision of Ye Lou’s ephemeral Suzhou River), Welcome to Destination China loosely centers on a madam called Jennifer and the desperate people whose meager livelihood rests on her disreputable enterprise: a handsome young man unable to find a decent job, a pragmatic prostitute searching for ways to maximize her income, a naïve young woman from the province determined to earn enough money in order to bring her parents into Shanghai. Perhaps the most compelling story is that of Jennifer’s long-time friend, Ah-ling, an aging actress sent down from Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution and whose only means of returning to the city was a marriage of convenience to a gay man (who, unfortunately, was played with ridiculous, exaggerated theatricality by an actor who seems to have learned his craft by training as a circus mime). Creating a paradoxical, irreconcilable vision of Shanghai – one, a destination of privilege and a globalized, urban megalopolis of unlimited possibility, and the other, an inescapable abyss of poverty, want, alienation, and violence – Sixth Generation filmmaker, Andrew Cheng, creates a flawed and unfocused, but incisive dystopic vision of contemporary Shanghai.
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