Last Train Home Review – High Cost of Low-Priced Chinese Stuff; Must Watch Documentary

Who doesn’t like the Made in China stuff?

Bet all ye cheap desi chutias jump in glee, salivating like epileptic dogs upon seeing the price tags on all those low-priced iPods, jeans, cell phones, umbrellas, laptops and what-not-goods, all Made in China.

It’s not often we watch a documentary given our hectic schedule and the endless stream of Bollywood, Kollywood and Hollywood films releasing every week.

But when we were in New York City the other day, we decided to eschew the usual orgy of commercial cinema and headed for a documentary playing at the IFC Center in downtown Manhattan.

Our pick, the Chinese language documentary Last Train Home.

The documentary highlights the migration of millions and millions of Chinese people from the rural hinterlands to Guangzhou and other cities where they labor in factories that make a variety of goods, largely for export to the West. As the movie notes, in many villages only the elders are left as all the youngsters have left for the cities.

Often these workers toil in miserable conditions so that their children and family members can have a better life.

Many of them go home only once a year during the Chinese New Year, crowding the railway station in a desperate bid to catch the last train home.

Describing the 130 million migrant workers in China as the world’s largest human migration, the documentary addresses a subject that no one’s examined before – the toll it takes on the workers and their families.

Directed by Lixin Fan of Montreal, Canada, the camera throws the spotlight on one such family where the parents left 16 years back to work at a textile factory in Guangzhou. Their two children live with the grandmother in a village 2,100km northwest of Guangzhou. The daughter Qin just a year-old when the desperately poor parents left to make money.

The long separation estranges the children, particularly the daughter, from their parents and tension between the two often lurks in the background when they meet.

As the mother laments:

When we are home, we don’t even know what to say to the kids.

The 16-year-old embittered daughter Qin is equally forthright when she says she doesn’t like her parents and admits she can’t get along with them:

My parents rarely lived with me. How can there be any feelings?

Despite the parents’ great hopes for their children to go to college and find better jobs, Qin leaves home. Much to the parents’ disappointment.

Anxious to prevent the same thing from repeating itself with their son, the parents take a momentous decision even if it means more pain and stress for the father.

Surely, the tension in this one family is but a microcosm of what’s playing out in millions of households across China.

High Price
The virtue of Last Train Home is to showcase the high price paid by tens of millions of poor Chinese workers and their children – Long years of separation from the children, living in hovels in distant cities, working long hours in hard conditions, absence of affordable medical facilities, lack of unemployment insurance when business slows down following the 2008 economic crisis in the West and the immense tension between parents and children wrought by years of separation.

Last Train Home is playing at the IFC theater on 6th Avenue and E.4th St in New York City. The documentary comes with English subtitles. strongly recommends you watch Last Train Home.

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