‘Umbrella…’ stands out for its austerity: no music, no interviews, no voice-over and commentary. The documentary is nothing more or less than a record of the five traditional professions on which modern China is built: workers, peasants, soldiers, students and small sellers. The title refers to the umbrellas which are a fairly loose thread in the story: the workers are the factory workers in an umbrella factory, the farmers have to get their grain harvest in before the rain and the small sellers are some of the shopkeepers of the very many umbrella shops. . In the case of the soldiers and the students, the umbrellas (or the lack of them in the pouring rain…) are pulled a little more by their hair.
Although the austerity of the documentary often turns into dullness, the idea is nice: the changes China has undergone have repercussions for each of these professions. It offers many opportunities for workers and salesmen, but the economic boom of China means for these people above all hard work for a minimal wage, while dreaming of a beautiful BMW in the meantime. For the farmers, all changes are almost only negative: farming life is actually no longer profitable. There is enough or even too much harvest, but it is no longer yielding anything. This is where the documentary comes into its own, also because it draws attention to one, somewhat older farmer, who talks frankly about his difficult life.
It is a pity that such a slightly deeper form has not been chosen more often. For the rest, ‘Umbrella…’ is really just a collection of images of people: working in the factory, studying or crawling on the ground. This gives too limited and too monotonous a picture of the various positive and negative consequences for each professional group. A focus on one person within a certain group or a few interviews would have given the documentary a more personal and slightly more exciting character. Unfortunately, a good idea now lingers too much in bloodlessness.