Success has moved east, and life in the west has become bleak, filled with the un- and under-employed. The collapse of the western economy means that those on the bottom, known by the Chinese as 'ghosts', take on low-paying outsourced labour jobs. These jobs are frequently undignified, occasionally requiring quick and creative thinking, but for the most part dull and without much of a future. Ghosts with Shit Jobs
is an amusing and clever mockumentary, following people through four strange and yet oddly familiar kinds of jobs that puts a strange twist on our current economic and political climate.
The mockumentary is being made for a Chinese television shows, 'investigating' the lives of those who perform these apparently menial tasks. Gary and Karen assemble robot babies for the children of the wealthy; while experts in robotics, they spend most of their time cleaning up fake (yet still smelly) diapers, hoping to scrounge together enough money to attend conventions and start to make something a little more sophisticated. Brothers Anton and Toph scour the Toronto ravines for spider silk, a business once profitable but now forces them to sleep on a roof. Oscar is a digital janitor, entering a computer created virtual past world, covering up logos. And Serina is a human spammer, earning money by 'casually' mentioning products and services in conversation (a business apparently run by the Nigerian mafia.)
There are two jokes in the film: the fact that westerners are now doing jobs that we associate with the east, and these jobs are ones that are easily conceivable and funny. For the most part, the four directors (Chris McCawley, Jim Morrison, Jim Munroe, and Tate Young) handle the material well. This is low-fi sci-fi; very little CGI or special effects, the stories instead concentrate on the human factor, giving small clues as to how the world got this way, and using the mockumentary style to underscore the ridiculousness of the situation. Occasional cuts back to the broadcasting program are uncomfortably funny, given the current trend in documentary film that focuses on those 'less fortunate' than ourselves: there but for the grace of the stock market go us all.
The secret of comedy is timing, of course, and unfortunately at times the film drags a bit. Many scenes could be trimmed, as the jokes play out a bit too quickly and there are pauses that last a little too long while the audience waits for the next joke. Luckily, the last third of the film changes the game a bit, providing a different direction from the simple examination of lives, and the ending is, well, quite a bang. For those who watch these kinds of documentaries, it is a sobering and funny view on how we in the west see the world, and will leave you wondering how long it will be before the shoe is on the other foot.
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