In Theaters 12.08.2023 or Watch at Home 02.13.2024

Total Trust

Directed by Jialing Zhang
Film Movement
2023
97 Minutes
Netherlands, Germany
Mandarin
Documentary, Asian
Not Rated

TOTAL TRUST is an eye-opening and deeply disturbing documentary about surveillance technology, abuse of power and censorship. Through the haunting stories of people in China who have been monitored, intimidated and even tortured, the film sparks a global debate about the dangers that Big Data and AI pose to individual freedoms. A bracing portrait of a society for whom privacy is all but extinct and a warning for democratic states employing unprecedented security tactics, TOTAL TRUST sounds an alarm about the increasing use of surveillance tools around the world. If this is the present, what does our future look like?

Director & Cast

  • Director: Jialing Zhang

Where to Watch

Trailer

Photos

Reviews

  • "While it’s hardly news that most of us are under some form of surveillance any time we’re in public, the extent of Big Brother’s activities still has the capacity to astound. That’s nowhere truer than in the People’s Republic of China, whose efforts to monitor its citizens’ every action (public or otherwise) would make Orwell blush. ONE CHILD NATION co-director Jialing Zhang once again turns the camera on her home country in TOTAL TRUST, the kind of eye-opening documentary that makes you realize you know far less about its subject than you thought you did — however bad you may think China’s surveillance state is, Zhang can assure you it’s far worse."
    Michael Nordine, Variety
  • "Highly recommended! "
    Richard Brody , The New Yorker
  • "A thorough overview of China’s multi-pronged assault on the privacy and rights of its populace."
    Screen Daily
  • "Her chilling, damning film, directed from outside China... with the help of dozens of anonymous local collaborators, stands as... a compelling warning of unchecked surveillance, holding an incriminating mirror to our would-be watchers."
    Nick Bradshaw, Sight & Sound
  • "From perfectly calculated social-credit ledgers to neighbors spying on neighbors, Total Trust exposes China’s shocking network of policies and programs intended to ensure the government has utmost control over its citizens. Jialing’s human-centered approach to a harrowing investigation into one of the world’s most expansive surveillance states attends to the heartbreaking realities of so many. Their lives are the stuff of our most cynical dystopian novels."
    Teresa Xie, Screen Slate
  • "After years of citizens policing one another’s mask-wearing, vaccination status, and party-throwing, it’s jarring to see how similar life in China is to life in the U.S. The Chinese government is far more organized in its control of the day-to-day than America is, but there’s something eerie about watching smiling neighbors standing in front of a private residence, refusing to allow a family to leave, as if we’re watching “Black Mirror” riff on Shirley Jackson."
    Mark Peikert, Indiewire
  • "TOTAL TRUST is a chilling documentary...Jialing Zhang has incredible access to her subjects and the troubles they face. Her cameras are on the ground, and clever editing gives you that queasy feeling. You feel what they feel. You feel the paranoia of always being followed. You feel the distrust of strangers who approach them all with “friendly” faces."
    Alan Ng, Film Threat
  • "[O]ne of the most incisive, comprehensive, and moving explorations of the way authoritarianism is practiced in the modern world...a comprehensive and authentic portrait of how state power manifests in the lives of opposition and anti-state voices, as well as how aggressively ordinary people are shepherded into political conformity."
    Noel Oakshot, In Review Online
  • "Having read 1984 isn’t necessarily prerequisite to viewing the new documentary Total Trust, but Jialing Zhang’s daring film so soberingly charts China’s contemporary surveillance state that it practically brings George Orwell’s omnipotent, omniscient (but once-fictional) super-state to life."
    J Paul Johnson, Film Obsessive
  • "TOTAL TRUST offers a persuasive picture of this Big Brother system in action."
    Natalia Winkelman, The New York Times
  • "It’s a haunting film, to be sure, but absolutely vital. In a land where half a billion cameras are pointed without permission, this is one camera bravely pointed by filmmakers who capture something both cautionary and extraordinarily compelling."
    Jason Gorber, POV Magazine
  • "After watching TOTAL TRUST, you have to wonder if there’s any additional room in which the surveillance state in China can grow. The instantaneity with which the CCP reacts to social media posts it deems objectionable is daunting enough, but its ability to intervene in the most mundane of activities — buying flowers, say — is frightening. In the end, the story Ms. Zhang presents is not far removed from a typical episode of the Netflix series that is the digital age’s answer to “The Twilight Zone,” “Black Mirror.”"
    Mario Naves, The New York Sun
  • "It is a necessary, if at times a highly uncomfortable look at a political system using big data to enforce its own narrative. TOTAL TRUST is a documentary about China's political system utilizing big data and technology to exercise complete control over its citizens. Jialing Zhang emphasizes time and time again this bleak image as well as the stories she follows are the consequence of a repressive system, which allows comparisons to many other countries and cultures from all over the globe."
    Rouven Linnarz, Asian Movie Pulse
  • "It is an urgent, gripping and frightening film, and serves as much as a warning for the rest of the world as it describes China and its increasing authoritarianism"
    Vladan Petkovic, Cineuropa
  • "Captivating and chilling at the same time... takes us deep into the Chinese surveillance state.... It is the observational documentary at its best...."
    Aleksandra Biernacka, Modern Times Review
  • "Disturbing...the stuff of nightmares...The details of this dangerously stark doc are beyond imagination."
    Anne Brodie, What She Said