In his first feature documentary, Don’t Be a Dick about It (2018), Benjamin Mullinkosson followed his cousins’ summer in Maryland, winning the Audience Award at IDFA. After working on his follow-up for years, The Last Year of Darkness now takes us 12 000 kilometres from Maryland to Chengdu, China, where we meet five twentysomething youths, all reflecting on their respective identities and the significance of life in a metropole of 21 million people. The youths regularly convene at a techno bar called Funky Town, their haven of self-expression, acceptance and partying hard. Beyond the dancefloor sticky with plum wine, construction sites are churning day and night, and the edge of the metro extension excavation slowly inches towards their beloved club.
As with his previous film, the director knew his protagonists and the scene beforehand. This allows him to get very close to his subjects, conveying to the viewer their fumbling around for human contacts as well as intimate musings on sexuality, depression and life in general. These youths carried by a chain of techno parties, drag shows and sunrises are like neon flowers that the surrounding society wants to weed out of the concrete jungle.
Content warning: substance abuse, threats of suicide