Posts Tagged ‘migrant labor’

School Shutdowns Take Aim at China’s Migrant Worker Children

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Shut out of school, migrant children study on the street in Cui Zi'en's "We Are the... of Communism"

Recently, both The New York Times and The Economist reported on the sudden closing down of dozens of unlicensed schools for migrant children on safety grounds in Beijing. This round of forced closures has been the largest in scale since a similar campaign to demolish migrants’ schools in Beijing in 2006, which was regarded and criticized for making way for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. How do such government ordinances affect the teachers and children whose work and education face abrupt termination? Cui Zi’en‘s documentary We are the . . . of Communism (2006), which follows a group of pupils and their teachers from Yuanhai Elementary School of Beijing in the aftermath of its shutdown, offers some clues to begin thinking about this matter.

(2006), which follows a group of pupils and their teachers from Yuanhai Elementary School of Beijing in the aftermath of its shutdown, offers some clues to begin thinking about this matter.

A Mad Dance on Shanghai Streets: Zhao Dayong’s Street Life

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

By Sara Beretta

This entry is part of a weeklong spotlight of newly available titles in the dGenerate Films catalog.

Director Zhao Dayong opens his documentary Street Life with Big Fatty, a physically imposing but cheerful homeless man who collects recyclable litter during the day and turns into a “street slam poet” at night. He sits in the middle of Shanghai’s Nanjing Road, a luxury shopping district whose daytime crowds give way to “invisible” people lurking on the streets at night. A sort of Chinese homeless griot, Big Fatty sings from the popular masterpiece Journey to the West (Wu Cheng’en, 16th century): “Oh the great Monkey King! There is no hurry, monkey. The Celestial Emperor has asked you to look after his horses… But the Monkey King didn’t kneel down. He didn’t understand the rules of Heaven.” Big Fatty’s Impromptu recitation of classic Chinese literature constrasts starkly against Nanjing Road’s night landscape of neon signs and Western luxury shops and restaurants.

Since 1845, Nanjing Road (formerly Park Lane or Main Road) has been a bustling commercial artery of Shanghai, rich in history (a tragic accident occurred here in 1937 during the war with Japan) and commerce. Today Nanjing Road is still the main shopping street in Shanghai, alluring people with its copious malls and electronic billboards, the symbol of development and economic success attracting migrants from all over the country. Zhao Dayong traces a vivid and somewhat ghastly fresco reflecting another side of Nanjing Road, a brutal, raw, and real tale about migrants living and surviving on the street.


The Other Side of the Chinese Student Success Story: We Are the… of Communism

Monday, December 20th, 2010

We Are the... of Communism (dir. Cui Zi'en)

By Ariella Tai

Earlier this month a study conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, showed Shanghai students placing first in the world, far outscoring the United States. The New York Times article reporting on these “surprising” test scores posits that a stronger “culture of education” is responsible for the stellar performance of Shanghai 15 year-olds, as well as raising anxieties that students in the United States are lagging academically. Collective investment in China’s reputation as reflected by the test scores, as well as an “amazingly strong” work ethic are also attributed to the high scores. Mark Schneider, commissioner of the Department of Education under the Bush Administration, suggests that the government may be allowing especially talented high school students to study in Shanghai instead of their home provinces in order to boost city performance on such exams.


China in Africa: Documentary on Al-Jazeera

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Al-Jazeera produced this interesting investigative piece on Chinese businessmen and migrants living and working in Senegal, provocativlely titled, “The Colony.”

It’s interesting to compare this take on overseas Chinese migration with a recent article in the New York Times about how tens of thousands of Chinese migrants have transformed the Italian city of Prato into a low-end textile and garment hub of Europe, with mixed-to-negative reactions by the Italian locals.

But for all the talk of how the impact of Chinese foreign commerce and migrant labor is being felt around the world, there is much-needed activity happening in the opposite direction, as China serves as a destination for both commercial and cultural exchange. (more…)

Chinese Train Doc Leaves Tracks at Sundance, Stirs Criticism at Home

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Fan Lixin, director of Last Train Home (Photo by Nan Chalat Noaker/Park Record)

One of the most acclaimed films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival is Last Train Home by Lixin Fan. Already the Best Feature Film winner at last November’s International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, Last Train Home chronicles a migrant-worker couple in Guangzhou trying to get on a train back to Sichuan to see their kids during the Chinese New Year, the busiest and most impossible travel period in China. Ella Taylor of NPR calls it her “favorite film of the festival, bar none… Watching this devastating portrait of a family trying to glue itself back together, you wonder how China, on its way to becoming the world’s richest nation, will avoid civil war if it doesn’t also attend to the needs of the millions of poverty-stricken families like this one.”

More info (including backlash from China) and video trailer after the break.