A film about the lives of Chinese miners is not likely to attract mainstream viewers, but I suspect that this is the closest glimpse into contemporary China we are likely to get. And touchingly universal. Visually, it is a series of marvelously-framed photographs and brief snatches of dialog, to which the viewer must gradually develop a narrative line. In the background -- the effects of the one-child policy, which puts a premium on marriageable females, who must sell themselves to the highest bidder; then the lure and inaccessibility of the big city (Beijing); the incapability of small-town gossip as well as the town's only employer -- the coal mines.
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