One day, a Lord of the Rings-obsessed Chinese real estate investor met a little person on the train. This downtrodden man’s openness about his trouble finding a job inspired the businessman to try and help: he created an amusement park where people with dwarfism could live and earn money performing. Though the park has attracted negative attention from groups like Little People of America, Dwarves Kingdom attempts to capture what the park means to its workers. The film is by turns moving and discomforting; in intimate interviews, we learn how individual workers’ dwarfism has impacted their relationships and how the park has created a community, empowering some and upsetting others. Then, in long song and dance sequences from the vantage point of the park’s visitors, we’re reminded that these performances are all most people will see. One of the star performers, an aspiring actress named Gao Yan, asks herself whether she prefers her park persona to the roles she plays in the outside world. She journeys from the park to Beijing and Japan, living with former co-workers, singing karaoke, and dreaming of stardom. Her performance is the film’s emotional anchor, making us wonder whether the park’s very existence has—if nothing else—required one person to make a perverse choice.
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