It was when reading a picture book about Chinese new year that we stumbled across this facet of China.
A New Year's Reunion: A Chinese Story by Yu Li-Qiong is a beautifully illustrated award wining children's book that gently relates the story of a young girl celebrating the new year with her father, the only time of the year that she sees him.
Though a fictional story, the reality is that over 100 million migrant workers only see their children once a year during the spring festival, for only a few days. Working hundreds if not thousands of miles away from home, workers cannot afford and/or are unable to take the time off required to travel home, except over the new year when most workers receive a week long holiday.
Last Train Home This book led me to find this award winning documentary which follows a couple who are migrant workers and their journey home during the spring festival over the course of a few years, and presents some of the conflicts that arise between the parents and their children.
I had read that it was unwise to travel in China during the Spring Festival, and the girls and I have seen pictures of traveling crowds, but it was during this film that the crushing reality and immensity of this yearly exodus really sunk in.
Though we regularly watch travel shows, and nature documentaries, this was the first social documentary I had introduced to Elle, and being Chinese with English subtitles, I wasn't sure it would receive a positive review. However, one hour into the film, both girls were keen to finish it. The dialogue is minimal, but you are visually transported into the reality and struggles this family faces.
As it was rated General, I did not watch it beforehand. And until the last 15-20 minutes, I was quite pleased knowing both girls were involved in the story. However, nearing the end, there is an unpleasant scene of violence between the father and his 18 year old daughter. It is not something I would have knowingly let Elle watch, as it was upsetting for all of us, and she is 10 years old. However, I did use the opportunity to discuss social norms and how immense stressors can take their toll and affect a person's responses. Other than that scene, it was a thought provoking documentary that truly opened our eyes.
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