Hao Wu Talks “People’s Republic of Desire” at Paulson Institute’s Decoding China Series

Filmmaker Hao Wu joined the Paulson Institute’s latest Decoding China event series today to screen and discuss his recent film, “People’s Republic of Desire,” and share what he learned while documenting the uber-popular Chinese livestreaming industry. The Institute’s Decoding China series is hosted at the Chicago tech center 1871 and focuses on tech-related topics in contemporary China.

“People’s Republic of Desire” follows the captivating, money-driven, and sometimes bizarre world of livestreaming on the Chinese platform YY, where celebrity status can happen nearly overnight and disappear just as quickly. Following its release in late 2018, the film has received critical acclaim and multiple festival awards.

Wu, who grew up in China but currently lives in the United States, described the process of conceptualizing, filming, and producing the documentary. As a former tech executive in China, his experience was vital to understanding the complex dynamics at play in the Chinese livestreaming world. “I tend to focus on the young people because I think that is what shows what China will become,” said Wu when asked why he chose to follow a handful of young streamers and fans.

“As I made this film, I realized that what China is going through is what the rest of the world is going through as well,” said Wu, pointing out the similarities between the Chinese livestreaming world and the “YouTube star” phenomenon in the U.S. Many of those who make it big on either platform are younger, specialize in a certain type of videos, and build a devoted following. With its fascinating topic and larger-than-life personalities, it’s easy to see why Wu’s film has critics—and Decoding China crowds—raving.

More details about the Institute’s next Decoding China events will be announced soon.