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SFF 2020 Review: Merry Christmas, Yiwu

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In response to the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, the 26th Sarajevo Film Festival moved its full programme online…

Situated in Yiwu, China are six factories supplying Christmas decorations around the world and documentarian Mladen Kovačević explores the lives of the workers on the job and at home.

Two noticeable cinematic elements missing are a musical score and narration which creates an immersive experience for the viewer.  Initially, it is disorienting being thrown into the middle of things but makes for a more authentic experience.  There are few occasions where the camera starts in close creating an almost surreal image and gradually pulls back to reveal a more recognizable environment.  It is amazing the access that documentarian Mladen Kovačević has been given to his subjects which sees him capturing their private conversations both at home and in the factory.

The pacing is slow as Kovačević favours long continuous shots which in a way emulate the daily monotonous routine that the workers have to go through.  A particular dramatic and stunning moment takes place as the camera pans across a massive shipping yard where various coloured containers waiting and in the process of being loaded onto cargo ships.   As much as it is admirable that the film takes observational approach, it is easy to lose track of who is who which makes it difficult to be emotionally invested in what is happening.  The workers get lost in the machinations of factory life and perhaps that is the point.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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