Sunday, April 18, 2010

Films #5, #6, #7, and #8: Friday Four for Four?

I wasn't sure we'd be able make it, but four movies in one day wasn't hard at all. Filmwise, it was a great day, with three out of the four films earning a solid 4 stars from me.

Adults: Is life hard? Does your job suck? Do your kids not understand you? Are they ungrateful?
Young people: Is life hard? Does school suck? Do your parents not understand you? Are they unloving and distant?

For a little perspective, anyone who answers "yes" to any of those questions should see Last Train Home, a documentary focusing on one family during the annual exodus of most of China's 130 million migrant workers back to their home villages and farms. I don't have words to describe the working and living conditions of Mom and Dad, who toil in a city factory night and day to make oversized clothing for export.

Train starts with a most effective opening scene, in which thousands of migrant workers mob a train station in the rain. Shot from above, the scene is dark and gloomy; everything is in somber shades of black and gray, except for a smattering of umbrellas in vibrant Crayola colors. Lucky migrant workers wait days for a train home. Unlucky workers wait a week. Even unluckier ones try for weeks to get tickets and never make it home. Desperate to get home, the workers push, yell, cry, faint, and swear, while the police, also shoulder to shoulder, try to keep order.

When the parents finally make it home after days of train, bus, boat ferry, and foot travel, it's no surprise that they're strangers to their kids, and interactions with them are strained. After all, they left their infant children to be raised by Grandma and Grandpa, and they only make if home once a year. (Again, if they're lucky.)

I could go on, but I'm not going to. I'm tired and still have a lot more movies to think about and watch. Train is a thoughtful, powerful documentary. See it.

Friday's Film Ratings (outta 5):
Last Train Home ****
Human Terrain ***
Harmony and Me ****
Feed the Fish ****

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