Filmmaker Jessica Kingdon On Observational Aesthetics And Failure [Indie Beat Podcast]

May I welcome you to the newest episode of Indie Beat? Come on in! On this episode, we had on the director, writer, and producer Jessica Kingdon. Kingdon first dabbled in writing before ultimately finding a stronger pull in the art of filmmaking. She made several films throughout the years but the one to really hit was “Commodity City,” an observational documentary about the Yiwu Markets in China. In this short, she fixed her lens on both the vendors and the products, displaying the boredom, consumerism, and human moments discovered in one of the largest wholesale markets in the world.

It’s a really stunning piece; a perfect dissection of our materialist system and way of life. The film went on to play Rotterdam Film Festival, True/False Film Fest, and Sarasota Film Festival among others and garner over 150,000 views online. Watch it here:

Since then, Kingdon has made “Routine Island,” another observational doc, this time about the remote tropical island of Palau and its new tourism industry serving the Chinese middle class. Just as incisive as the previous “Commodity City,” “Routine Island” is a stark contrast to the darker last short but still digs deep, going beyond the surface level joys of aquatic sightseeing. This isn’t available to watch just yet but stay tuned!

Long-term wise the filmmaker has been working on a feature in the same vein as the shorts, examining the landscape of contemporary China and the work that people do — the products, the conditions, the workers. While it is centered on a specific location, Kingdon craftily shows the gravity and global nature of these ideas, taking an aesthetic that is often criticized for being unethical and instead of making it about the exploitation itself.

Kingdon has also been noted by Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Film and has been a part of the UnionDocs Lab, The Ne York Film Festival Artist Academy, and the Chicken & Egg (Egg)celerator Lab. She also lent her expertise to other filmmakers, producing a number of films such as Colin Healey‘s “For Entertainment Purposes Only” (which features Sherilyn Fenn AND Ray Wise, hotcha!), Johnny Ma’sOld Stone,” Nathan Truesdell’sThe Water Slide,” and Leelila Strogov’sSomeone Good Will Find You” (inspired by an Etgar Keret story). Most of these you’ll absolutely be hearing about within the next couple of months, and hopefully, they will be playing either locally or on our wonderful little Internet for you to check out!

Jessica hopped on the podcast to talk about working in China, putting your future on hold while you make a film, the benefits of failure, and observational documentary aesthetics. It’s another banger so, please listen and tell all of your friends to do the same!