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YPN
05-11-04, 11:01
Chicago filmmaker Deborah Stratman goes on the road in East Turkestan with the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Dawaz Troupe in an allusively anthropological look at folk heroes and pop stars performing with uncertain political footing.

This lively ensemble of three dozen acrobats, jugglers, clowns, musicians and trapeze artists just lost seven members on tour who defected in Toronto, Stratman explains in the end credits. Scenes of tightrope hero Adil Hoxu posing with fans for snapshots needs no explanation, but later scenes of Chinese forces swinging tree branches at throngs of locals do. For context, Stratman adds a voiceovers that state, for one thing, that Chinese authorities burn books in Uyghur language.

Stratman prefers behind-the-scenes details over geopolitics, as she frames lyrical close-ups of Uyghurs winching the tightrope, dabbing mascara and stretching legs before performances.

"Kings of the Sky" hovers between a traveler's diary, a visual poem of ethnographic imagery, and an advocacy video for preserving a traditional art form. It's as if Stratman ran off, joined the circus and learned a balancing act of her own.

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