Hot Docs 2021: Our Review of ‘The New Plastic Road’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2021, Movies by - May 09, 2021
Hot Docs 2021: Our Review of ‘The New Plastic Road’

Davlat is a family man with a strong work ethic. A truck driver from Tajikistan, he bought two trucks to help him bring good from China and Pakistan to his home country. He follows the footsteps of traders centuries ago when the Silk Road was open. His ethic, though, is still at the mercy of the seasons, which dictate how much work he gets to do. A man like him would speak about such realities, but there’s something about his narration that doesn’t feel mopey about facing volatile markets. This is the most compelling of this documentary about him.

That documentary is The New Plastic Road, a chronicle of Daviat both at home and on his travels. This movie could have faced a 50/50 scenario because of its structure. The first act shows him around his family, which might make some viewers go “Show us the road already”. And then he goes out on the road, where he spends day and night with fellow truck drivers who aren’t the most loquacious film subjects. Docs, as a genre, are more quiet than fictional films. But there have been other docs this year that have done quiet better than this one.

Although if you ask me about the documentary, the family scenes make it interesting, especially later on when the movie returns to them. Sometimes, it shows the children alone at school after Davlat drops them off. Again, he is a truck driver and dresses like it – better than how I dress nowadays –  but he clothes his son in a suit nicer than any I’ll ever own for a regular day at school. There, the child learns the Tajik national anthem and things Davlat wants them to know. What he does and the road he travels in is for his children.


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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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