Directed by Lixin Fan
Starring Changhua Zhang, Suqin Chen, Qin Zhang, Yang Zhang
Anyone that is a frequent reader of Cinegeek.com or knows me personally knows how passionate I am for documentary films. Not just because I am a documentary filmmaker myself, but I have had an enthusiasm for the genre since I was young. Zeitgeist Films is releasing the award winning documentary film Last Train Home in theaters. Visit www.zeitgeistfilms.com for a list of theaters and dates.
The Chunyun period, or also referred to as Spring Festival travel season, is a period of travel in China with extremely high traffic load around the time of the Chinese New Year. It has been called the largest annual human migration in the world. Estimates put the number around 130 million people traveling from the cities in China to rural villages to visit relatives and towns they have left in order to move to get jobs in restaurants and factories to support their families.
This is the time in which this documentary is set. Changhua and his wife Suquin work in a grueling clothing factory and stay in dingy dormlike housing for the workers in the factory. The days are long, the work is back breaking and mind numbing and they long to return at New Years to see Suquin’s mother who is raising their teenage daughter Qin and young son Yang.
In the early 1990’s, they left Qin and Yang with their grandmother so that they could travel to the city to get factory jobs and earn the necessary money to support their children and family.
Since they only get to see their family during the New Year, they struggle and fight to get the expensive train tickets to travel over 1, 300 miles home to see their family. The process of this is truly heart wrenching to witness.
When they finally arrive home, Qin seems happy initially, but she soon reveals that she doesn’t believe her parents care about her and her brother because they left them so “easily” and return so little. Couple that with struggling with her schoolwork, and Qin is talking about quitting school and working in a factory herself in the city so that she can live her own life and leave her family behind.
Changhua and Suquin do not want their daughter to quit school and live the kind of life they do and there are many emotional arguments and discussions with Qin trying to get her to understand the life altering decisions she is making.
Last Train Home follows this family from 2006-2008, following their New Year trips home and the personal relationships and struggles this family has during the time they were filmed.
This film is emotionally wrought and skillfully assembled. There is not any narration. Rather, Lixin Fan wisely lets the family tell their story through their powerful words and actions.
The cinematography is also noteworthy. This is a beautiful film to witness.
You simply must see this film. It is a powerful film going experience that can’t be missed.