Petition ★★★★½

'petition' is a devastating piece. shot over the course of a dozen years, much of it with hidden camera, it investigates the travails of china's petitioners: people who come to beijing to appeal legal cases, file grievances against corrupt officials, or otherwise seek relief from the government. they will spend months and years filling forms and waiting on line for someone to hear their complaints, living in shanties wherever they can. nothing will change but the stubborn people who demand their civil rights will suffer. the camera captures people physically dragged from offices, detained and beaten, sent to psychiatric hospitals. the film particularly follows a mother and daughter over a period of ten years or more. the daughter lives on the streets with her mother from the age of twelve, never attending school, until one day she leaves to get a job and start her own family. her mother, determined to get to the bottom of her husband's mysterious death after a routine medical exam, refuses to return home and is once again committed to a mental ward. before the beijing olympics the slums where most of these people were living were demolished and many were imprisoned or driven out of the city. it's a vicious cycle with no end in sight. the word kafkaesque sums it up neatly. naturally this film can't be screened in china.