Gil Kofman is an American director who was hired to make a thriller in China. The script for the movie is one that was written by a fellow American, and was originally set in America. When he arrives in China to make this movie, problem after problem occurs, leading to changes in the movie with every problem.
I think one part the synopsis that is being used online for this documentary describes it so well that I'm just gonna copy that straight away: "Once there he discovers that the old adage of making a film three times, once in the writing, once in the shooting and once in the editing, is in fact just the opposite in his host country, where his film is unmade three times." We follow this American director on his journey in trying to make a movie, originally an American movie, work in China. He has to deal with the system, the odd personalities, and the lack of sincere care for the movies that comes with making movies in a communist country - a complete change from the perfectionist Hollywood.
I'll just go out and say it: this documentary is superb. I loved every little bit of it. This is not only inspirational, it also manages to be the opposite of that. It's quite insane to see how the Chinese filmmaking business works through the eyes of a Hollywood director, and how corrupt everything is. They fire anyone they feel is going against them, the cast and crew can decide to just not do it (and is often replaced without notifying the director), the crew that actually works on the movie doesn't really care, and a ton of valuable information is lost in translation. There is really only one part of this movie that I felt was emotional, and left me feeling kinda sad, and that is when the first director of photography, a young woman named Rain, is fired because she cared too much about the movie. She wanted the best camera possible for the movie, and the producers didn't like that she had too much balls to stand up for herself. So she got fired. The reason that I thought that was sad, was because she seemed really nice AND talented. Hell, she was probably the nicest Chinese person on the entire crew. And she got fired because she ganged up with the director and cared about the movie. It's messed up!
However, the rest of this documentary is pretty much a comedy. Either from the absurdity of how the Chinese work, or how our director, Gil Kofman, is literally hating it over there and nearly getting an aneurysm (at least if you look at the veins in his forehead). The discussions behind the camera with Gil are usually the most entertaining, since his feelings are really far from censored. There's also the fact that he gets paranoid - after a party with the producers, he comes back to his hotel room noticing that someone has been in his room. So he searches the entire room for bugging equipment. He sounds mental, but you'd do it to. Trust me! Gil has to wait months and months before even getting paid. And when this documentary was released, he had still not gotten all of it.
I just love this movie for so many reasons. I like all documentaries about filmmaking, but this one is really different. It's not focused on the actual filmmaking except for a small portion (but at the same time it's all about the filmmaking). But most of all it's really, really funny. It's absurd and fucked up, sure, but very funny. My favorite part is about the Chinese bootleg "industry". Early on, Gil enters a shop to see if his previous film has been bootlegged, but he can't find it. He takes this as an insult, of course, so when they're finished with the movie, "Case Sensitive", and the producers in China make their own cut for the release, and Gil has his own cut for festivals, Gil decides to make his own bootleg to spread around in China. Gil and the guy behind the camera for this documentary sit down to create a cover for it, and it's actually fucking hilarious. They add anything on there that could help it sell - such as the Criterion C-logo along with "CRITERION COLLECTION" written on top, adding the text "Alfred Hitchcok present", adding every logo they can imagine (BBC, blu-ray, Dolby digital, etc.), writing random stuff in Chinese (such as "Gil Kofman is a jew"), and misspelling nearly every English word on there. And finally, the best part - they add silhouttes of dinosaurs! It's quite brilliant. And then they leave to distribute this to bootleg stores in China - only to much later find copies of their bootleg in US!
Anyone interested in filmmaking has to see "Unmade in China". It's a really funny movie, but there is also a lot of interesting things to learn about the business in China. You're not likely to get another glimpse into that world, or at least not one that is from an American's point of view. It'll help filmmakers understand the great enviroment they are making movies in, and hopefully make them less whiney when they actually are in control of their own movie. I have yet to see "Case Sensitive" (not sure where to get it - I should investigate), but from the looks of the director's cut, it's not too terrible. Although the weird Chinese cut that we saw bits of, was edited into something quite eccentric and silly. Overall, I loved "Unmade in China", and that's all there is to it!