Ascension | Oscar Nominated Documentary Review


Inspired by Wiseman and the intricacies of what it means to be human, Jessica Kingdon's feature debut and Oscar-nominated documentary Ascension captures the essence of living through capitalism and the impact it has on one's mentality and society's relationship to upward mobility. Speaking on her aim for Ascension, Kingdon says she desires to "hold space for two truths at once", a goal she remarkably transcends. 

The easy comparable is Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi. Purely observational and relying on everyday magic to inspire its narrative, Kingdon manages to create a piece that feels universal regardless of an audience's geography or class. 

Beginning in the heart of the chaos, we see people gathering in the streets to apply for job opportunities. Megaphones boast a promise of $2.99 an hour with accommodation and food included, while similar opportunities compete to be as equally attractive. As the film progresses, we go inside the walls of these factories where Kingdon astutely depicts everyday working life where caps for bottles get made or AI sex dolls are welded with giant soldering irons that threaten to burn bare flesh at any moment. It is easy, from a Western standpoint, to hold judgement for the work illustrated on screen, and yet, Kingdon leaves little room for audiences to feel a sense of patriotism for their country that adopts the slightly more "ethical" means of a few extra dollars for equally laborious labour. 

The people on screen are those you'd meet in any other unextraordinary circumstance. They look like those you stand in line with at the supermarket or cross paths with at the local park, but Kingdon makes them extraordinary through their relationship to work. We identify with them because society has promised them invisible "success" in exchange for hours of their day that produce a means to an end - a human-made process. Both entirely gracious and grotesque, Kingdon has found a captivating limbo where audiences may allow themselves to ruminate on their own experience. Her impartial lens has us applying meaning where perhaps there is none, teaching us about our desire to make sense of nonsensical practice. 

Regardless of this, there are beautiful discussions of dreams and hopes for the future. These are not manufactured but found in offhand remarks such as "I like the US", both a melancholy and profound statement in context. On the surface, Kingdon has made a visually aesthetic film that extraordinarily captures the mundane and transforms it into something beautiful. Deeper than that, she has gifted us both a comedy and a tragedy, one that gives us the grace to understand ourselves and the world around us inside of the bleak machine of capitalism. 

Ascension is now streaming on Paramount+ and Amazon Prime. 

Post a Comment

My Instagram

Copyright © Cinematic Faves. Made with by OddThemes . Distributed by Weblyb