A Modern-Day 'Mad Man' on Creativity and Selling Happiness in China

Sunshine is a fascinating documentary portrait of John Benet, an American producer in Shanghai, and the emerging advertising industry there. 

Sunshine is a fascinating documentary portrait of John Benet, an American producer in Shanghai, and the emerging advertising industry there. Working on a series of commercials for McDonalds, he shares observations about his career, creative expression, and Chinese culture, alternately bemused and cynical. Doug Nichol, a longtime friend of Benet's and a director of commercials and music videos, crafts a film that is both slick and poignant.

In a great review for Short of the Week, Jason Sondhi teases apart the many elements that work so well in the film:

Perhaps it is the setting, perhaps the toll of 23 years in the industry, but Nichol has caught the man right at the moment that the well of self-justification runs dry, as Benet finds it harder to find value in his work, and by extension, himself. Nichol’s decision here to photograph the interview in a dimly lit hotel room was absolutely perfect. The darkness creates a contrasting mood of guardedness and confession, like Cold-War spies sharing secrets.

The pessimistic appraisal of his chosen career transforms itself into guilt, as he comes to China in order to add to its burgeoning commodification culture. Nichol captures familiar images of the country’s rapid physical change: the skyscrapers the cars, the ubiquitous advertising, and a select few images poignantly evoke the erosion of history in the march for progress.

Read the full review here.

For more work by Doug Nichol, visit http://www.partizan.com/commercials/director/doug-nichol/.

Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.

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