What (or where) is CHIMERICA? Not actually a place but a term for the close knit relationship between Chinese and US economies.
This four-parter is written by Lucy Kirkwood. First in 2012 as a critically acclaimed play and now this four-part TV adaptation, cannily set in the run up to the presidential election 2016 with Trump railing against fake news.
As you’d expect from the title, it’s a big scope so story in a nutshell: in 1989, photojournalist Lee (Alessandro Nivolo) takes a shot of the iconic Tank Man in Tiannaman Square.
Fast-forward to 2016 and he’s taking snapshots in Syria. After his integrity is called into question, he tries to track down the Tank Man.
It’s quite refreshing to have a photojournalist at the centre of the story rather than a journalist, avoiding wordy speeches and relying on the power of image.
Despite being adapted from a play, it doesn’t feel stagy; it feels cinematic, for the most part keeping the integrity of the play. (Did we really need Lee to join the mile high club in order to meet Tess, played by Sophie Okenedo, out in China for banking business?)
The story is not about the characters, so much as the political themes, but this works in the show’s favour as it isn’t dragged down by soapy melodrama.
The characters which stand out are Mel Kincaid (played by Cherry Jones), Lee’s boss who has the authoritative presence that commands respect, and Zhang Lin (played by Terry Chen). He shows the personal impact that Lee will always be distant from and the human cost of conflict as his wife was killed in political protests.
There’s some big ideas and themes I look forward to seeing play out. Episode 1 left me with lots to think about and the feeling of watching something new, even though we’ve had so many political shows before.
It doesn’t strike me as a binge-watch boxset but nevertheless, should you want to the whole series is on All4 right now.
- Watched on Channel 4. 17/04/2019