Rave Reviews of LOST COURSE
Updated: Mar 7, 2021
Opening March 5 at
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NEW YORK TIMES CRITICS PICK!
Broadly adhering to a vérité style, Li builds a case that active civic engagement in China inevitably leads to trouble — or else further corruption.
by Robert Abele, The Los Angeles Times
A village in southern China becomes a hotbed of democratic reform — with complicated aftereffects — in Jill Li’s epic political documentary “Lost Course,” a remarkable feat of embedded journalism for a first-time feature filmmaker. Filmed over several years in which hope-buoyed protesters wrestle with the consequences of hard-won change, this two-part, three-hour film is marked by immediacy and breadth, as if an on-the-fly news bulletin had naturally morphed into the richest of character-driven sagas.
by Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter
The doc is charged with energy, anger and disappointment. ...[I]t sweeps the viewer into the center of a bold, fledgling grassroots democratic movement in the surprising setting of rural China.
by Matt Turner, The Brooklyn Rail
Every individual is affected by this journey they undertake together, facing the prospect of compromise and corruption on the one side, and the real, increasingly routine-seeming risk of losing their lives or livelihoods on the other. Li’s characterization of each of her subjects is nuanced, giving each activist space and screen-time through which to develop into something believably complex and often contradictory.
by William Repass, Slant Magazine
The film takes its time, not only to explore Wukan’s struggle as a process, in microcosm, of Chinese politics, but to develop a character study of those involved... Li’s camera remains steadfastly sympathetic. Because her politics are only hinted at through that sympathy, she leaves the viewer to learn from and interpret the situation how they will.
by Michael Fox, KQED
“The three-hour film benefits from exceptional access and remarkable candor, providing a close-up perspective on grass-roots idealism and on-the-fly strategizing.”
by Bill Bria, Vague Visages
“The easiest and best way to remove all ‘entertainment’ aspects that would seem to dilute a documentary’s journalistic ability is to present material as unexpurgated and raw as possible. This is precisely what director Jill Li has done with Lost Course, a film whose power lies not in editorializing but keen observation.”
by Artemis Lin, The Film Stage
“Li displays a shrewd knack for non-fiction storytelling, knowing what footage to keep and where for maximum impact, and how to keep all the complex moving parts going at a steady pace. Like a good thriller, Lost Course even sets up a minor mystery in its earliest minutes that viewers will forget during all the twisted, winding turns of the movie, only to be brought back at the end for a grand reveal. Importantly, though Li guides the story in a certain direction, she’s also careful not to cast judgment on those who appear in the film. Characters and events are presented from multiple angles, narrated by villagers with differing views. It’s up to the viewer to decide who to trust, who is right or wrong, and even if anything was truly won.”
by Steve Kopian, Unseen Films
I was enraptured for the whole running time. I just sat and watched the screen and let things wash over me, too engrossed to really take notes.
by Sarah Ward, Screen International
[Li] helps splice Lost Course into an urgent and energetic affair. Its title makes plain that there is no happy ending in store here, but nothing about this complex documentary veers in the wrong direction.
by Joe Bendel, J.B. Spins
Li shows us how the promise of Wukan was lost in raw and brutally honest terms. Very highly recommended.
by Kelly Vance, East Bay Express
A fascinating glimpse into working-class Chinese politics.