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Last Train Home

4.4 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Every spring, China's cities are plunged into chaos as an astonishing 130 million migrant workers journey to their home villages for the New Year's holiday. This mass exodus is the largest human migration on the planet - 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 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, Zhang Changhua and Chen Suqin left behind their two infant children for grueling factory jobs. Their daughter Qin - now a restless teenager - both bitterly resents their absence and longs for her own freedom away from school, much to the utter devastation of her parents.

Emotionally powerful and starkly beautiful, the multi-award-winning Last Train Home's intimate observation of one fractured family sheds unprecedented light on the human cost of China's economic 'miracle'.

- Stunning new anamorphic transfer, created from HD elements
- Deleted Scenes from Guangzhou Train Station
- Travelogue: Guang'an to Shenzhen City
- U.S. Theatrical Trailer


Like Which Way Home, the documentary that tracks impoverished Latin American kids precariously train-hopping up to America, director Lixin Fan's cinéma vérité-style documentary Last Train Home also uses trains--this time in China--as a metaphor delineating class to promote viewer understanding of social hardship. Last Train Home tracks the Zhang family, opening with scenes in a clothing warehouse where married couple Changhua Zhang and Chen Sugin work assiduously to support, one discovers through interview footage, their two children living over 1,000 kilometers away. Cut to a rural village, where Zhang's two kids, teenage girl Qin Zhang and her younger brother Yang, pine for the city while their elderly grandmother cares for them. This story of parents arguably forced to leave behind their two infant children serves as a microcosmic example of what is happening to 130 million migrant workers throughout China, and the film chronicles familial efforts to acquire train tickets out of the cities to celebrate the Chinese New Year rurally with relatives. Between takes filming various Zhang family members, shots of the insanely overcrowded Guangzhou train station make the documentary more politically tense, as massive crowds explode with rage and exhaustion trying to fight for tickets then board packed trains for sweaty rides home. As much as Last Train Home chronicles the Zhang parents toiling behind sewing machines or washing their feet in the cubby they call living quarters, while their kids back home pick corn and otherwise work a small garden, the film is obviously about the larger issue surrounding split families and lack of income among China's rural working poor. The film is beautifully shot, maintaining its respect and sensitivity towards its subjects throughout, though it's careful not to glamorize with slick scenic footage what is far from a glamorous cultural problem. Heated familial arguments break out, as Qin decides against her parents' will to forge ahead with an urban warehouse career of her own, and one may come away with a sense of despondence for the overwhelming amount of difficulty the documentary's subjects experience daily. But like any of the finest sociopolitical films, Last Train Home presents a gray scale between the black and white of its topical coverage, with several charming and funny moments, proving that the resiliency of the Zhang family can, too, act as stand-in for how millions of others undoubtedly roll with the punches. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Zhang Changhua, Chen Suqin, Zhang Qin, Zhang Yang, Tang Tingsui
  • Directors: Lixin Fan
  • Producers: Mila Aung-Thwin, Daniel Cross
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Cantonese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: February 22, 2011
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004DMIJ0E
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,353 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Last Train Home" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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 think.....wow, 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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