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Film Festival Today

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Sundance Review: “TikTok, Boom” Is a Strong Documentary with Insights into Dangers of Chinese Control

Written by: Jeremy Taylor | January 31st, 2022

Film poster: “TikTok, Boom”

TikTok, Boom (Shalini Kantayya, 2022) 3 out of 4 stars.

TikTok. Boom is a well-done documentary about different content creators like a Beatboxer Spencer X and Feroza Aziz, an Afghan American girl who did a video about China’s Genocide against the Muslim Turkic-speaking Uighur people. Her vertical video was first taken down, then she was told “Your Account Has Been Deleted,” all because she criticized China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Among other topics, the film discusses the CCP censoring TikTok both here and elsewhere, as well as how the words Dalai Lama, Tibet Independence, Tiananmen Square 1989, Falun Gong, and Winnie the Pooh (because the bear looks like China’s Dictator Xi Jinping) are all banned on the app. The CCP is also collecting facial recognition and gaining all the data of the world’s Gen Z kids. This poses a national security threat, which is why former President Trump considered banning TikTok.

This comprehensive documentary also takes us to China where a Chinese American young man, who grew up in New York but now lives back in China, talks about TikTok’s sister company in China, called Douyin (China’s ByteDance is the Parent Company of Douyin & TikTok). He explains how in China you can’t create and upload videos if you have tattoos or ear piercings or if your hair is colored; black hair only. And there’s a re-enactment of a former ByteDance employee who talks about censorship in China, specifically about Dr. Li Wenliang, who blew the whistle about the coronavirus and then got punished by the CCP for trying to warn the world about the virus.

Feroza Aziz in TIKTOK, BOOM @Shalini Kantayya

At times, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities have also been banned on TikTok. When people complain about TikTok censorship, forcing them to reverse course, the app then shadow bans these creators so no one sees their videos. It would have been nice if the filmmaker had also talked about the CCP being the enemy of China’s #MeToo movement and how it blocks gays from being on TV.

There’s also an interview with a young African American woman, Emily Barbour, whom TikTok shadow banned, hurting her and other Black content creators financially. It was disappointing to me to see her complaining more about American social media, even though she wasn’t shadow banned on Facebook, Twitter, or any other similar American company. Many Americans don’t understand how much better they have it than in China.

Spencer X in TIKTOK, BOOM @Shalini Kantayya

In another interview, the question comes up of China’s theft of other country’s intellectual property (IP). There’s a long list of government agencies and companies that have had their IP stolen from them by Chinese government hackers. This kind of CCP economic espionage has hurt every country. Overall, TikTok, Boom is a fine documentary that I recommend seeing.

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Jeremy Taylor is the founder of Film Festival Today

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