Last Train Home

Every spring, major cities in China convulse with the New Year exodus. Over 130 million peasants-turned–factory workers jam train stations in a desperate attempt to go home for this, their only holiday. Filmed vérité style, Last Train Home's tight focus on a single family allows emotional access to the grueling epic journey between city and countryside. Sixteen years ago, the Zhang family left the poverty of their village for the wages of the urban factory, but had to leave behind their infant daughter Qin. Now middle-aged, the couple sews jeans in dimly lit garment shops-boxes marked “Made in China” spell their contribution to the global economy. Meanwhile, they assuage their grief with the idea that their sacrifice means better lives for their children. Finally reunited for the New Year holiday, they find teenaged Qin angry over her abandonment. In a bitter blow to her parents, she drops out of school-lured by wages and the excitement of the city-and rejects their attempts to change her course. Qin's path provides a visual allegory of rapid change within China-she moves from subsistence farming to factory work to waitressing under neon lights as customers watch the Beijing Olympics on television. What happens if Qin shrugs off sacrifice along with rural life? Visually stunning, intimate, and unsettling, Last Train Home is the fruit of an extraordinary collaboration with the Zhangs, who present us with the real price of capitalist prosperity-in generational chasms and social dissolution.

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