Railroad of Hope

Go west, young peasant: each August and September, throngs of people travel from Sichuan to the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China's far west, looking for work in the cotton fields. Both particular and metaphorical, Ning's documentary joins this new class of workers on a journey into unknown territory. Aboard a stiflingly crowded train, the filmmakers ask the migrants a series of expansive questions; brief conversations bring surprisingly intimate glimpses of individual anxieties, ambitions, and dreams. Responses to the query “What is your biggest wish?” range from “That trains were not so crowded” to “I have no wishes anymore.” Asked about the future, some travelers simply don't answer.
—Juliet Clark

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