In February 2004, twenty-three illegal Chinese workers drowned when they were surprised by an incoming tide at England's Morecambe Bay. How this tragedy, which shook Britons into awareness of migrant labor conditions, could happen is the subject of documentarian Nick Broomfield's devastating latest work, a rare venture into fiction. Broomfield, notorious for inserting himself into sensational films about celebrities (Kurt and Courtney; Biggie and Tupac), here takes a completely different approach. He has nonprofessional Chinese actors, former illegal immigrants themselves and hardly different from the drowning victims, enact a thoroughly researched but lightly fictionalized account of events leading up to the tragedy. Based on a series of articles in the U.K. Guardian by undercover journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai, and boasting a radiant, determined performance by Ai Qin Lin as a single mother who embarks on a grueling trek from China to England, Ghosts is “a note of solidarity with the dispossessed” (Variety).

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