Please Vote for Me (2007)

Please Vote for Me (2007)

Watch the film on You Tube: A.O. Scott’s review, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Information at Wikipedia, IMDb, Why Democracy, pleasevoteforme.org, PBS Independent Lens

Reviews from users at IMDb

Chinese kids learn a lesson in cut-throat democracy!, 22 August 2008
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Luo Lei, Cheng Cheng and Xu Xiaofei are all in the same 3rd grade class and are told by their teacher that the three of them will be running in an election to see who will be class monitor. It seems that such democratic-style elections are unknown in China and at first the kids seem a bit puzzled. However, they soon get into the spirit of this and the kids act out lessons about the worst attributes of the electoral system–with name-calling, bribery, threats and a variety of other dirty tricks. This really had me wondering if the kids and their very, very overly-involved parents came up with all this on their own or if perhaps this film was deliberately staged to be a parable about the evils of self-rule! If it wasn’t staged, then it says a lot about the natural inclinations of humans.

Luo Lei appeared to be very capable as monitor–provided you want a kid who will slap the others around to get them to bend to his iron will! Cheng Cheng was, in many ways, like a little “Eric Cartman”–a rather nasty little porker who slapped his parents around and seemed to have gotten his game plan from Machiavelli–what a conniver! Poor little Xu Xiaofei seemed like an adorable and sweet little kid–and soon it seemed like she was out of her element because she’s just too nice to run a dirty campaign like the boys!! Frankly, she was the only likable kid of the three–so naturally she’s the one who ended up with the least number of votes–a case where Chinese kids are not so much different from their American counterparts! This was a very fascinating experiment, though I was amazed how dirty the teacher allowed the race to be (hence, making me wonder if perhaps it was all staged to a degree to prove that democracy won’t work). I was most surprised at the parents, however, as they were nothing liked I’d expected! The seemed far more involved with their kids and allowed some behaviors that were pretty bad (particularly out of Cheng Cheng)–perhaps this over-indulgence is related to their only being allowed one child per household. In addition, the parents continually drilled the kids, wrote speeches for them and prodded them unmercifully–like you’d expect from an American father who demands that their child excel in sports.

Perhaps this film was most helpful to me not because of its lesson about democracy but because it gave amazing insights into the Chinese family and children. It was refreshing to see that even though the government is so different from a Western one, the kids seemed a lot like regular kids–for good and for bad! In particular, I was happy to see that Chinese kids can also be obnoxious and full of energy just like the kids I teach her in the States!!

Acknowledgments: I got to know the film from the treasure of documentaries collected by a friend of mine, a teacher who has made admirable efforts to bring international documentaries to Vietnamese students.

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