The Poseidon Project: A Review of a Locally Produced Indie Doc

Last night I attended a screening of an independent documentary film.  Held at the Apartment, a bar-restaurant on Yongfu Road in Shanghai, the event was organized by the Royal Asiatic Society's Shanghai branch.  The film is called The Poseidon Project.  It tells the story of a British submarine that sank off the coast of Shandong Province near the town of Weihaiwei in 1931, and the efforts of an American journalist and scuba diver based in Beijing named Stephen Schwankert to learn about the fate of the submarine and its occupants.  The locally based British filmmaking team of Arthur and Luther Jones produced and directed the film.  The film is 82 minutes long.

I was impressed by the high production quality of the film and the compelling story, which drew me in for the duration.  The film goes back and forth between historical footage and archival materials as well as excellent visual reconstructions of the accident, and the story of Stephen's own journey as he discovers more and more about the incident through his research and the people he meets along the way.  It includes locations shots in China, England, Greece.  Eventually Stephen locates family members of the few British crew members who survived the arduous journey back to the ocean's surface after the sub sank.  They accompany him on a visit to the gravesite of the victims of the accident in Weihaiwei.  

The story works on both a visual storytelling and metaphorical level.  While the story itself is a small one, it is told in a way that invokes universal themes.  The journey of the surviving crew members back to the surface and into life again is mirrored by Stephen's own deep dive into the wreckage of history, only to surface with fragments of the full story.  Along the way he learns that in 1972, during the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese military salvaged the vessel, but there the trail ends.

This is a wonderful piece of indie filmmaking, painstakingly handcrafted, with a nicely commissioned score.  I encourage those of you who get the chance to see this film at its next screening.