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Every spring at Chinese New Year, China's cities are plunged into chaos, as a tidal wave of humanity attempts to return home by train - 130 million migrant factory workers have gone to work in the cities from rural areas. It's part of the country's change from its traditional ways as it hurtles towards modernity and global economic dominance.
Sixteen years ago, the Zhangs abandoned their young children to find work in the city, consoled by the hope that their wages would lift their children into a better life. But in a bitter irony, the Zhangs' hopes for the future are undone by their very absence. Qin, the child they left behind, has grown into adolescence crippled by a sense of abandonment. In an act of teenage rebellion, she drops out of school. She too will become a migrant worker. The decision is heartbreaking for the parents.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
After overcoming the impact of the opening images of a mass of people rushing for the trains, we are confronted with the tension of 'will they / won't they' - will the parents find train tickets to get to see their kids this year. Gripping and complex on a human level, Last Train Home is riveting cinema.

A sea of people clutching make shift luggage swarm onto the trains - and we're there with them, albeit in the comfort of our luxury seats, just watching. The emotion that flows from these simply observed scenes is extraordinary. The reason for that is our knowledge of how much it means to them, how much is invested emotionally by them and how precious is this moment in time.

By the time the train pulls out of the station, with Mr & Mrs Zhang on board, heading 2,100kms away - train, ferry, bus - to their home and their two children, we are also along for the ride. And then things get even more emotionally difficult for the parents when Qin, their teenage daughter, drops out of school and gos to work at a sweat shop in the city - much like them, her education incomplete. The thing they worked for ... and we see them brooding over this in bed.

Indeed, Lixin Fan's amazingly intimate account could only be made with almost unlimited and unrestrained access - a privilege that isn't abused and one that pays dividends for us in many ways. At one dramatic moment father and daughter have a fight that seems to touch a universal nerve . . . Other audience dividends include glimpses of beautiful landscapes, both winter and summer, but it's the landscape of the human condition in this particular part of the world that has the greatest impact.

Published May 13, 2011

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(China/Canada/UK, 2010)

CAST: Documentary featuring Squin Chen, Changhua Zhan, Qin Zhang, Yang Zhang

PRODUCER: Mila Aung-Thwin, Daniel Cross



EDITOR: Lixin Fan, Yung Chang, Mary Stephen

MUSIC: Olivier Alary

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: March 17, 2011; Sydney May 2011




DVD RELEASE: May 13, 2011

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