Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Railroad of Hope

Railroad of Hope (Ning Ying, 2001, Mainland China). Documentary.

Sorry, I'm going to copy the synopsis - I haven't got much time to write something now, but I still wanted to make a post on this documentary that I saw yesterday at the theatre.

Ning Ying hasn't directed many films and her work still remains underseen, however, she directed fictions (very realitic and documentary style) and documentaries. This documentary won the Grand Prix of Cinema du réel in 2001 and had been selected in several known film festivals. Perhaps at this time, Chinese documentaries didn't get as much attention as they get now, we can notice a growing interest in the genre also because the quantity of Chinese documentaries are impressive, yet, still not many get through to festivals - and for those that are shown, most remain only in the festival circuit as it's still harder for documentaries to find distributors and threatrical releases.

This documentary reminded me of a short documentary, presented at The Rote Loge with Directors Lounge in Berlin, Carriage. We see people (workers) endlessly queuing at the railway station for a train to take and then they are entirely packed-up inside, but in Carriage, they go back home for the festival of Spring after their long term work whereas here they leave their home to find work. Also, Ning Ying's film is shot during the daylight and some people in the trains (or before getting in the train) are interviewed. Some are happy and eager to go and find work, some (most) are exhausted, some are anxious (a 14 year old girl who hasn't seen her parents for 4 years finally goes to see them and to start school but doesn't know if she will be able to take the train... or another woman who goes to see her husband without him knowing as she hadn't seen for years...). This documentary depicts the hard life of the farmer labourers (however it's mostly women who go for the cotton field work) but also their hopes.

synopsis taken from the site of the Forum Section of the Berlin Film Festival :
Every year during August and September, several thousand agricultural workers leave Sichuan by train for a long trip of more than 3,000 km, lasting three days and two nights, towards China’s far west: Xinjiang Autonomous Region, where endless cotton fields are awaiting the harvest. For most of the workers it’s the first time away from their native villages, as well as their first time on a train. The aim of Railroad of Hope was to cast a light on the relatively new phenomenon of internal migrations in China, and on the flood of workers who travel mainly by railway. The result is a documentary in which, probably for the first time ever, we can listen to Chinese peasants from poor interior regions speaking openly and sincerely about their lives.



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