From Somewhere to Nowhere: China's Internal Migrant Workers

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From Somewhere to Nowhere: China's Internal Migrant Workers (86:00)
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High-density population centers of enormous size are springing up in China with dizzying speed, and with them comes an increased demand for migrant workers in construction, manufacturing, and mining. Through still images by Andreas Seibert and documentary footage by Villi Hermann, this program travels throughout China to vividly capture the experiences of these mingong, tens of millions on the move from the countryside to the cities in the too often misplaced hope of building a better life for themselves and their families. An intriguing angle on urbanization fueled by explosive economic growth—and a moving composite portrait of laborers who typically toil in obscurity. (Portions with English subtitles, 86 minutes)

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Segments in this Video - (20)

1. China's Migrant Workers (02:53)
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Migrant workers are those who are working in the city but are living in the poor countryside. China may have as many as 100 million such workers.

2. Migrant Workers: Hard Labor (04:46)

In this video montage, migrant workers are show in textile factories and in jade carving studios. The work is hard and lacks amenities such as good lighting or protection from textile dust. These migrants have no legal standing or protections.

3. Migrant Workers/Split Families (04:41)

A middle-aged man explains why he works as a migrant worker in the city. He sends money back to his village for his children. He occasionally visits his home. Families are split up for extended periods of time.

4. Train Rides (05:09)

To cover vast distances, many people travel 23 or more hours by train from one place to another. On these long rides, people make new friends, learn tricks, hear stories, and sleep.

5. Workers Travel Home (05:07)

Migrant workers travel long hours back to their villages to spend Chinese New Year with family. For some workers, the separation has been in years, not months. A European photographer captures video and photos of the people.

6. Agrarian Reform in China (04:34)

Agrarian reform does not allow the people to buy or sell their land. Small parcels are allocated to peasants for their use.

7. Changes in Family Village (02:43)

A migrant worker, home for the Chinese New Year, describes the changes in the area since he was a boy.

8. Dangers for Migrant Workers (02:06)

Without the support of friends or people with experience, some migrant workers end up in prostitution when they arrive in Guangdong. Nevertheless, young people are encouraged to leave the village to try to find success.

9. Inner Mongolia (03:01)

A photojournalist visits an isolated village in Mongolia that has a Catholic church. Older women raise the children of parents who are only able to return to the village once each year during Spring Festival.

10. Worker Families (04:04)

In an outlying building project that consists of massive brickwork and tunnels, whole families live and work. Child labor, though evident, is a taboo subject. Workers collect wood for their fires in the most desolate of surroundings.

11. Town Life in Mongolia (04:28)

Balin Zudqi, Inner Mongolia: A photojournalist takes pictures and video of the town at its normal pace. He has no particular plan other than to capture the reality of life in this Inner Mongolian town.

12. In Search of an Ancient Dynasty (02:37)

The Liao Dynasty was a regime founded by an ethnic minority called Qidan who lived in the northeast areas of China. A photojournalist searches for any remains of this 900-year-old dynasty.

13. Private Disaster (01:41)

China is the world's largest supplier of coal. On the side of a road, a large coal-carrying truck has broken down and edged off the road. The poor driver believes his work and life are ruined as a result.

14. Coal Mining in China (06:28)

Coal mining in China is a taboo subject. A worker leads a photojournalist to his home, built by his hand but owned by the company. Miners might work up to ten hours in the mine without rest and without food.

15. Photographs of Miners and Workers (04:56)

The oldest coal mine in China is also where Mao had his first conversations about workers' unions. With the help of a Chinese journalist, a photographer is able to take pictures and talk with miners.

16. Miners as Migrant Workers (02:13)

When miners have a day off, they often go into another city to work as migrants to earn extra money. Many do not know where they will be going, but most of them will work as temporary construction workers.

17. Chinese Migrant Workers: Homelessness (04:24)

Bengbu, Anhui Province:In mid-winter, the cold makes it almost impossible for people to be outside. Yet, workers camp on the sites of future commercial buildings. An 85-year-old man with no family lives in a tent made of rags and cardboard.

18. Widow's Challenges (04:25)

A Chinese calligrapher pens a condolence message, as friend of the photojournalist has died of viral hepatitis. This man is featured in the early part of this film. His widow is left with debts and a small child.

19. Chinese Funeral and Burial (06:52)

The eldest son of man who recently died must now work to earn money for his younger brother's education, for house renovations, and for savings. In the home of the deceased a monk leads the service,which is also accompanied by music.

20. Chinese Migrants: Hopelessness (05:24)

In Beijing, civilians protest the imminent demolition of their homes. In a rare gesture of defiance, they leave protest graffiti on the walls. Most inhabitants are migrant workers that cannot get legal residency permits.

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