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Film Review: Last Train Home

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Sandra Soltero-...
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Film Review: Last Train Home

     Last Train Home is a a documentary by Lixin Fan based on a husband and wife that are Chinese migrant workers.  The story told revolves around how China is made up of a high percentage of migrant workers that travel  home once a year to celebrate the Chinese New Year with their families.  They leave their familiies to go get better work and to send money home.  Many leave their children behind to be taken care of by other family members.

     The beginning  of the film shows the struggle that occurs each year when millions of Chinese workers try to catch a train to go back home for the Chinese New Year.  The themes of family and culture are prevalent through the whole film.  Chinese New Year is a cultural tradition in China that is spent with family.  The migrant workers in the film look forward to this visit once a year so that they can see their children and their elders.  The film depicts the reality of how Chinese families may be affected as a result of migrant work.  This couple face a tremendous disconnect with their eldest daughter who was raised by her grandmother. The grandmother enforced education so that her granddaughter could be successful.  The idea was that if she became successful her parents hard work would be worth it and in turn she couold take care of them later in their old age.   I was able to make the connection with the idea of filial piety because obedience towards ones parents and elders is of the utmost importance in Chinese culture.  The film shows the struggle between a daughtert and her parents and the disconnect that occurs because she feels abandoned due to their migrant work.

     The documentary ends in 2008 with the world financial crisis.  Many factories are shut down and many migrant workers aree forced to move back home.  

    This documentary was an eye opener to the struggles and the dynamics that occur within a Chinese family.  I can use this film  in my class to talk about culture, migrant work, industries & cheap labor (factory work)  amongst many other topics and ideas that connect with my curriculum.


Juan Liebana-Mena
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Last Train Home Review

I too watched Last Train home and found it a great resource to learn about the importance of family and traditions in Chinese culture. It's a great movie to learn more about a tradition that keeps getting bigger every year in the United States, the Chinese New Year, and to understand its massive importance in China. The scenes of the workers in their factories can be a bit hard sometimes as they paint a quite dismal picture. Still they are of great importance in order to better understand the life of migrant workers in modern industrial China. The scenes of the crowds and desperation of some people trying to secure a place to travel home can be very hard too, but they are necessary in order to help the western viewer understand the economic expansion of China and the massive migration from rural areas to the cities and industrial areas. 

To me, the most impactful scene of the movie is when the couple is traveling on top of a boat and the wife tells the story about leaving her baby behind with her mother because they had to relocate to their new workplace. The way this woman describes the pain experience by living without seeing her kid is heartbreaking. She even said that it was extremely painful receiving letters from her kid that made her even sadder to the point that she wouldn't eat. 

Despite the sadness and the dismal themes and stories this movie depicts, I still think this is an amazing movie and a necessary movie for the western viewer in oder to understand the industrial growth of modern China and the life situtations of the workers that have made this economic progress possible on a daily basis.