Last Train Home NR

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(51) IMDb 7.7/10
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Every spring, China's cities are plunged into chaos as 130 million migrant workers journey to their home villages for the New Year's holiday. This mass exodus is the world's largest human migration--an epic spectacle that reveals a country tragically caught between its rural past and industrial future. Working over several years in classic verité style Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Lixin Fan (with the producers of the award-winning hit documentary Up the Yangtze) travels with one couple who have embarked on this annual trek for almost two decades. Like so many of China's rural poor, Changhua and Sugin Zhang left behind their two infant children for grueling factory jobs. Their daughter Qin--now a restless and rebellious teenager--both bitterly resents their absence and longs for her own freedom away from school, much to the utter devastation of her parents. Emotionally engaging and starkly beautiful, Last Train Home's intimate observation of one fractured family sheds light on the human cost of China's ascendance as an economic superpower.

Changhua Zhan, Suqin Chen
1 hour, 31 minutes

Product Details

Genres Drama, Documentary
Director Lixin Fan
Starring Changhua Zhan, Suqin Chen
Supporting actors Qin Zhang, Yang Zhang, Tingsui Tang
Studio Zeitgeist Films
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)

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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By David Crumm on February 22, 2011
Format: DVD
As the world watches mass movements turn long-established structures upside down, we all should be watching the vast sea of families across China that are torn by that great nation's 20th century history, followed by razor-edged economic realities today. "Last Train Home" was shot over several years of painstaking filmmaking by Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Lixin Fan, who earlier worked on the superb "Up the Yangtze (Subtitled)." The film captures major turning points in the lives of a teen-aged girl and her Mom and Dad, a couple making a deal with the economic devil in China to sacrifice their lives in sweatshops to build a brighter future for their children.

Those turning points cluster around the major New Year's festival in China, each year, when 130 million migrants jam rail lines and boats to gather in their family homes. The film's introduction points out that this may now represent the world's greatest annual migration. And, in the first year, we do see the family's modest New Year's feast and fireworks.

Roger Ebert, in his review highly recommending this film, made the point that this story might have been penned by Charles Dickens in the 19th century. That's an apt comparison as we watch lives ground up in sweatshops and children virtually orphaned into a world of predatory forces. I won't spoil the film by detailing too much of what unfolds in their lives, but the major eruption involves the teen-age daughter who supposedly was the bright hope for the family's future. The daughter is pictured on the cover of the DVD, wistfully looking out the window of a train.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By suburban dissident on March 2, 2011
Format: DVD
There are so many facets that make this a great documentary. The level of access that Lixin Fan gains to the process of migration that so many in China experience - moving from village to cities for work and then shuttling home for Spring Festival and then back again - and how it plays out in one family from Sichuan. The hardships, concerns, social and economic pressures, and hopes that hang by a thread that animate the migrant worker are on vivid display. For anyone wanting to know more of the on the ground, nitty-gritty way of life for a significant portion of China's population, this is a fantastic resource.

There are three other points worth noting. (1) Viewers should be warned that there are scenes where the tensions and pressures this family experiences boil over in shocking and very raw ways. This is not kiddy stuff. (2) There are some stunning, absolutely gorgeous, scene shots in this film. However, they tend to create an overly idyllic, romanticized vision of the Chinese countryside. Keep in mind that the pollution of the cities is not unknown in the villages and life is hard enough that people feel compelled to leave. The beautiful depictions of the countryside in this film can tend to make you forget that. (3) A fabulous benefit of this film is the events it captures. Seeing responses to and the effects of the snowstorm of 2008, the Beijing Olympics, and the financial crisis all show up and help display how such natural and unnatural "upheavals" filter down to individuals.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Whitt Patrick Pond TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 11, 2010
Format: DVD
The Last Train Home is a 2009 documentary directed by Lixin Fan and produced by Daniel Cross and Mila Aung-Thwin of EyeSteelFilm. (Note: the literal translation of the Chinese title is "Homeward Train", a more accurate description in my opinion). It documents one migrant worker family - the Zhangs - but it presents the dilemmas faced by some 130 million migrant workers in current day China.

The core of the Zhang's dilemma is that Changhua and his wife, Suqin, have migrated from their rural village to work in garment industry jobs available in the city, leaving their two children behind in the care of the children's grandmother, Tingsui. The Zhangs only see their children once a year, when they and millions of other migrant workers make their annual trek home to rural villages all over China for the traditional Chinese New Year celebration.

In the Zhangs case, they have been doing this for sixteen years, ever since their two children, Qin (daughter) and Yang (son) were infants, all in the hope of providing a better life and future for their children. But it is not without a considerable toll. In addition to the long hours of labor, the tiny cramped quarters the Zhangs must live in to save money, the complete lack of anything like sick leave or other benefits we take for granted, there is the problem that they've become strangers to their own children, who to their dismay they discover not only do not understand why they have chosen the life they have, are, in the case of their 16-year-old daughter Qin, rejecting the future they have worked so hard for so long to give them.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By RIZZO _*.*_ VINE VOICE on March 5, 2011
Format: DVD
Last Train Home, 2009, refers to "the largest human migration." This is a shocking view of peasants working in the city, trying to get home, once a year from their factory jobs in the city to their provinces.

China's 130 millions migrants are not crowding, pushing, stressing, waiting for a train to anyplace exciting, nor a sports occasion, nor something entertaining...... but to a simple place called home.

Home is where they left their children to be raised by grandparents, home is where they are allowed to go but once per year, the Chinese New Year. Home is where they can only make phone calls to, but cannot intervene any other way to check on their children living without them. And this is today, not 50 years ago, but today!

This makes me, we get to come home every night to raise our children, but can you imagine coming home once a year for a short time? These people took trains, boats, buses on their journey home, to see the children they do not really know anymore. They stressed out trying to get a train ticket on a seriously overcrowded train, carrying their bags with them.

The saddest part - The mother and father who worked in the factory have a son and early teen daughter who has left school, the camera follows her to the streetlife, working in the nightclubs. She is persuaded to come home with parents, and a physical fight ensues between father and daughter. Daughter's issues are like any young child who felt abandoned by parents, anger, resentment and rebellion are typical.

As the documentary follows the family, we, the viewer are left with questions but no answers narrated. How long is their time off, knowing travel delays could keep them on the road for a week. What are they carrying in their large bags?
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