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MAO'S NEW SUIT

Australia, 1997 (MIFF 1997, Australian)

Director: Sally Ingleton

Sally Ingleton's documentary charts the for­tunes of best friends Sun Jian and Guo Pei, as they prepare to stage their first designer col­lection in Shanghai's annual Fashion Week.

Their timing could not be more auspicious. Maoist austerity, the 'iron rice bowl' and blue or grey tunics are out; for those too young to remember the Cultural Revolution, workers' demonstrations have given way to makeup demonstrations. Matchmaking programs on TV and personal image consultants are all the rage.

The two women have their work cut out for them. Confusion abounds about when to wear what. Shoppers in supermarkets are frequently resplendent in evening gowns with jogging shoes; wedding photos display as many track suits as tuxedos. The venue itself is way out of town, the slide projector won't work, and the stu­dent models are too shy to wear the designers' bold and sexy clothes.

Fortunately the designers' sense of humour is equal to their ambitions. Come what may, they are determined to raise Shanghai's idiosyncratic fashion standards, then launch into the great fashion capitals of the world. This intriguing film captures the whirlwind pace of change in today's China.

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