Jessica Kingdon’s stunning feature documentary debut, the Oscar-shortlisted “Ascension”, is an enthralling, immersive journey into the heart and soul of today’s People’s Republic of China. With her unerring ability to capture small details and depict epic scale, Jessica gives us a privileged tour of the so-called “Chinese dream” at the center of China’s propulsive economy. Illuminating, awe-inspiring — and, at times, quite funny — “Ascension identifies singular moments of poetry in everyday life and elevates them to high art.
Joining Ken to talk about the film, Jessica describes how she gained inspiration from her great-grandfather’s poem that begins and ends the film. With seemingly endless possibilities to choose from, how did she identify and gain access to the wide range of locations that enliven the film? What was it like shooting at the sex doll factory depicted in the film (spoiler: it was even crazier in person)? And what were some of the scenes that didn’t make it into the film, such as the emotional graduation ceremony for the international butler academy? “Ascension” is not only a remarkable film but an apt description of Jessica’s fast rise to join the top tier of documentary filmmakers. Watch the film on Paramount+ and listen to the podcast to find out for yourself.