When I spoke with Jessica Kingdon, Nathan Truesdell, and Kira Simon-Kennedy on November 5, 2021, their documentary, ASCENSION, was several months away from being nominated for an Oscar™. It’s a richly deserved honor. Filmed in over 50 locations, they have crafted an engrossing and lyrical snapshot of modern China’s contrasts and contradictions as it moves into a consumerist future far from that envisioned by its founders. Experiential in concept, it provides stark, sometimes absurdist, juxtapositions, as well as images of daily life among the different economic classes that are as haunting as they are pointed.
We started the conversation with Kingdon describing how she arrived on the title for her documentary; her approach to the sound design that uses natural sounds as an integral part of the storytelling; and speaking to the logistics of filming in so many locations, as well as the blessings of a smart fixer.
We went on to talk about what they saw in the factories in which they filmed; what it was about this moment in time that so fascinated them; the visceral experience of the editing process; and the power of chance.
We finished up with the sometimes untranslatable nuance of language; editing during a pandemic; and the upside of being rejected by Sundance.