Award-winning American documentary filmmaker J.P. Sniadecki travelled throughout China by train for three years, capturing, with dazzling range and astonishing intimacy, the public and private spaces, faces and thoughts of Chinese people on the move.
This experimental documentary is a precisely conceived and virtuosically executed panorama of China, or more precisely, a series of moments in the lives of Chinese people as they ride the trains. Sniadecki starts from the cheapest, most crowded "hard class" cars and moves gradually towards the sleek, high-speed trains whisking China’s new middle class at 300 km/hr between shiny metropolises. Iron Ministry is particularly fascinated with what goes on in the interstitial spaces between train cars: gristly food butchery on the floors; passengers sleeping in any position they can wedge themselves into; enough heavy smoking to power the trains themselves. The trains can be thought of as spaces on the move, providing privileged, temporarily intimate contact among the passengers (there’s a fascinating conversation of ethnicity and patriotism, and another about democracy and reform); and between the passengers and the filmmaker, who often engages them in lively conversation in fluent Chinese.
The film’s visceral forward-charging play of light and sound is essentially cinematic; what its Chinese passengers have to say to us is nothing short of revelatory.
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