Ghosts With Shit Jobs

Ghosts With Shit Jobs

***1/2

Reviewed by: Neil Mitchell

The mockumentary set up gets another run out in Ghosts With Shit Jobs, the second feature, after Infest Wisely, to come from Jim Munroe's independent No Media Kings organisation. Humorous, attention grabbing title aside, this lo-fi dystopian satire, reportedly shot for around $4,000, is as much about the world we live in now as it is about the imagined future presented.

Written by Munroe, and with directing credits split between four different figures and featuring a largely unknown cast, Ghosts fittingly feels like a truly collaborative effort that channels the punk spirit of Series 7 - The Contenders, another low-budget indie movie that tackled contemporary mores through an imagined future scenario.

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Ghosts' premise is simple: by the year 2040, the fortunes of the East and West have shifted, with North America and Europe now economic basket-cases providing cheap labour and goods to the prosperous, dominant Asian market. The popular Chinese show, Window On The World, devotes its latest edition to the lives of a disparate set of 'ghosts', a slang term for Westerners, and their struggles to make ends meet in and around Toronto, Canada.

What the viewer sees is what the Chinese television audience would see, an hour or so of insights into the day to day lives of menial workers with a range of shit jobs no self-respecting viewer in the East would do. A couple who make baby robots for the pampered children of rich Easterners, a digital janitor employed to enter the 'inworld' to block out the copyrighted brand names that feature in people's memories, brothers who collect the silk generated from giant, mutant spiders and a human spammer, paid to drop brand names into everyday conversations, come under the microscope of the fictional and actual viewer.

What Ghosts With Shit Jobs is really satirising though, of course, is the raft of television shows in which Western audiences get to gawp in faux-sympathy at the daily struggles of those in the developing world from the closeted luxury of their living rooms. This imagined future world, not a wholly fantastical concept given the current fluctuating economies of the East and West, is a neat inversion of the often patronising attitudes shown by exposé documentaries that offer up poverty porn as entertainment.

The problems of West to East economic migration, poor working conditions and low pay, aspirations and the realities of a life of financial, spiritual and emotional poverty are all addressed in an offbeat, sometimes melancholic, fashion.

While being very funny in places, in terms of the script and visual gags, and being particularly well realised given the minuscule budget, Ghosts With Shit Jobs is by no means perfect. Some of the humour falls flat or is merely trite, the satire not nearly savage enough and the momentum begins to flag towards the hour mark, before being re-invigorated by a by turns touching, anarchic and comic dénouement.

There is still much to like about Ghosts With Shit Jobs despite its flaws however. Rachel MacMillan gives a scene-stealing performance as Serina, the human spam, cynical, desperate to succeed and single-minded before showing a more humane, compassionate side to her personality as she drops her guard and lets love into her life.

Jonah Hundert is similarly memorable as Anton (Jonah Hundert), the polar opposite of the initially icy Serina, a naïve man-child cruelly dumped by his mutant spider silk collecting brother Toph (Taylor Katz). The comedic heart of the film, the endearing, teddy bear like Anton evokes sympathy, frustration and amusement in equal measure. Credit is also due to the effects team, as apart from one rudimentary use of CGI, they have acquitted themselves well in what must have been financially impossible circumstances.

Ghosts With Shit Jobs may not hit the bullseye with all of its satirical pot shots, but it is destined to gain a cult following at the very least. Its anti-corporate stance will appeal to the No Logo/Adbusters demographic, its vision of a possible future will intrigue science fiction fans and those drawn to below the radar, independent film-making will find much to admire in Munroe and co's efforts.

Reviewed on: 14 May 2012
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A popular Chinese TV show, Window on the World, looks at life in the economically deprived West in 2040.

Director: Chris McCawley, Jim Morrison, Jim Munroe, Tate Young

Writer: Jim Munroe

Starring: Rachel MacMillan, Taylor Katz, Jonah Hundert, Nick Vescio

Year: 2012

Runtime: 101 minutes

Country: Canada

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Series 7 - The Contenders