Sometimes there are images in a film that penetrate your brain in new ways. Lixin Fan’s great new documentary, Last Train Home, has some of these images. Most notably, you won’t forget the sense of urgency and desperation of the hundreds of Chinese workers who fight for their chance to get on that last train home. Lixin Fan’s documentary centers on one specific family, torn apart by a common Chinese situation: parents working in urban factories while their children must live without them in rural areas. The Chinese factory industry is such a vital aspect to the nation’s economy, there is no way around this stressful family dynamic, and the film captures just how stressful it becomes. From a recent New York Times article about the film:
To gain the family’s trust Mr. Fan and his crew ate with them in their dormitory in Guangzhou, taught them how to manage their own wireless mikes, which they wore constantly, and would sleep on the pile of warm jeans the couple made while the crew waited to tag along after they finished their shift at midnight. “So 15 minutes into the film, after that first train ride,” he said proudly, “we’d already known each other for a year.”
“The mom once told me that they worked for 29 days, 15 hours a day straight,” Mr. Fan said. “The dormitories are right across the street from their factory, so it takes one minute exactly to go from their sewing machine to their bed. So that’s what they did for that month — sewing machine, bed, sewing machine, bed.”
Last Train Home opens at the IFC Center in New York, on Friday. It will expand to other cities throughout the Fall.