Posted by: Nick Friedman | February 27, 2010

Review: ‘Disorder’

A young man lies injured in the middle of the street after being hit by a car. He remains in a motionless slump as traffic avoids him. Two young men exit the car and approach him. “Stop faking it,” they bark at him. “I’ve seen this scam before.” They continue to accuse the man of fraud even as the police arrive. The officers violently drag him to an ambulance, but they are still convinced he is faking, and he is left in an alley.“Disorder” uses a series of unrelated alternating scenes, to reveal the chaos and chilling indifference that is abundant in the streets of Guangzhou, China. The film is a compilation of several thousand hours of footage arranged by director Huang Weikei for his revealing sophomore effort. In an attempt to present all the compiled footage in a uniform way, the film is shown in a grainy black and white format that greatly contributes to the movie’s sullen tone.

The film has no real narrative or storyline; it is progressed only by increasingly disturbing and intertwining scenes that reveal the disorder Weikei perceives. The film conveys a strong theme of helplessness best illustrated by a scene in which a suicidal man negotiates with police on a bridge. He is upset that he has been continually denied the money he is owed from a traffic accident and has climbed onto the handrail of a bridge. The police try to talk him down, but not out of concern for his own safety. “If he jumps he will surely die,” says one of the officers. “We can scoop him out. Either way it is a pain.”

The structure of the movie is odd in that there is not one underlying story, but a progression of scenes that paint a haunting picture. This unusual structure gives the viewer a sense of the disorder that Weikei is trying to convey. The documentary doesn’t have much in the way of a soundtrack, only a beating drum which serves as a cruel reminder that Guangzhou is in its own rhythm, and it doesn’t stop for anyone.

Each scene serves as a glimpse into the chaos, without any context or explanation. The viewer is shown flashes of police brutality, political unrest, floods, fires, and even an abandoned infant. These brief glimpses leave the audience desperate to know the outcome of each situation, making Weikei’s message stronger and more lasting.

Other showings for “Disorder” include:

Saturday, Feb. 27 / 12:30 p.m. / The Chapel
Saturday, Feb. 27 / 10:30 p.m. / Forrest Theater



  1. I think it should be pointed out that a lot of what is shown in the movie Disorder should be taken with a grain of salt. During the Q&A, the director said he did not film the scenes himself, but compiled them from other people. From what I understand, there was little to no effort to independent check the truthfulness of some of those scenes.

    On top of that, the movie paints an unfair picture of what life in that city is really like. The movie was more of a art-piece than an actual documentary. How was it informative? Did it provide any sort of context?

    A particular scene I had issue with was the one involving a group of police officers beating a person with batons. Obviously, this comes across as unfair brutality, but why did that scene choose not to translate 3/4 of the dialogue, and only subtitled the parts where the cops screamed for the man to get in the van. What else was being said in that scene that the director chose the audience shouldn’t hear? Yes, they were using excessive violence, but one must understand that they can’t afford to outfit every single police officer with a taser and gun. On top of that, unlike in the United States, police officers there eat as little as everyone else and aren’t as big and overpowering as they are usually here.

    From my seven years of living in China, I came to realize that there is a very large community of artists, filmmakers, writers in China that only care about playing out (or exploiting) the West’s perceptions on China. We here are interested in seeing the films of brutality and protests because we think that’s all there is over there. We don’t hold the filmmakers there to the same scrutiny that we would of other filmmakers, because we just assume that if a film enters T/F, then it is automatically accurate and truthful. I, for one, am very disappointed in the fact that this movie made the criteria to be screened.

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