Total Trust: Surveillance State x 1.4 Billion

Total Trust takes a look at the current complex surveillance state of the People’s Republic of China and the country’s ever-increasing control over its citizens when its comes to surveillance. The documentary enters this story through the story of Zijuan Chen whose husband Weiping Chang, a human rights lawyer, was considered a traitor to the state. His treatment is paralleled by war time conditions as he was subjected to torture which lead to permanent injuries. As Weiping gets released and gets a chance to meet with human rights activists from the EU, the family is on edge due to the knowledge that they’re constantly being watched and any passive motion that is considered unusual can see them arrested or exiled by the state. (In fact, if you’re reading this review, I suggest you check out the film’s website which tells you the status of the documentary’s subjects. It’s a reminder of how real and present these people are and how much they’re suffering under the surveillance state.)

An apt comparison to this film is Johnathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest as the filmmakers are looking at the banality of control. More and more, the state is getting its citizens used to and even enthusiastic about the revolutionary and (frankly) horrifying surveillance methods being used. Besides the millions of surveillance cameras, the innovations in AI facial recognition technology and iris scanning are treated as the newest Apple product even as it seems blatantly apparent that it is being used to control and oppress anyone who might make even the slightest resistance against the ways and agenda of the Chinese government.

The film also reminded me of Ascension in its look at the very mundane moments of China but, in those slow images, you are reminded that every angle of the space is being filmed. As the film drills this idea into your head, you even become scarred for the filmmakers as you get images reminding you of the fierce loyalty that the state of China is trying to show through its loyal members doing public patriotic displays and the media clearly being controlled to praise the decisions of the state.

There is a data system for a citizen’s social credit score that also keeps scores of people’s behaviors, awarding and docking points based on certain behavior. These are the points that can impact their family and can completely alter their lives. Its one example of many that makes you very terrified of the way billions of people are forced to live. Like many, this is an important documentary.

Total Trust is available now on VOD/Digital.

Leave a Reply