In a digital universe where live streamers earn as much as $200K a month, can virtual relationships replace real-life human connection? People’s Republic of Desire tells the stories of two such online stars who’ve risen from isolation to fame and fortune in China. The film takes us on a vérité journey through their live streaming showrooms, which have become virtual gathering places for hundreds of millions – from the super rich who lavish performers with digital gifts, to poor migrant workers who worship them. The characters are brought together in a series of bizarre online idol competitions, where they discover that happiness in their virtual world may be as elusive as in the real one.
Technology executive-turned-filmmaker Hao Wu takes a raw and human approach to story-telling in an era when culture evolves online. Wu, who has held management roles at Alibaba and TripAdvisor, is now a fellow at DC-based think tank, New America. His films have received support from Ford, ITVS, Sundance, Tribeca and other international broadcasters.