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This film tells a story about an unschooled 11-year-old girl Yi-Jie, she's a truly global child who learns the world through the United Nations of Wastes while working with her YI minority parents in this recycle workshop thousand miles away from their mountain village home town. Going to school is all she longing for. And the ambitious boss of the workshop Kun, who works so hard for trying to give his family a better life. Through the story of these two families, the film explores how these wastes recycled by the bare hands of families, and discovers their dilemma and choices of suffering irreversible damages on life just to make a living. It also observes that the world is flat and issues don't go away by changing time and location - we're all in this together.
This very interesting documentary shows the life of two Chinese families three generations deep living on, beside and surrounded by plastic waste. Their job is to turn the plastic into pellets to be sold to industry.
It's a Chinese language film with English subtitles. The focus is on 11-year-old Yi Jie, daughter of Pen who works for "boss man" Kun who has come in from the country where he was a farmer to recycle plastic waste so he can afford to pay for education for his children (and no so incidentally) buy nice things like a new car. We see the children at work and play among and amidst the piles of mostly white plastic. We see the workers and children sort through the plastic for the right kind to feed the machine that makes pellets that can be sold. The children play, the families eat together, they sing, they joke, they moan about making the equivalent of five dollars a day. They dream, and strange to say learn a lot about the world by examining and reading the plastic trash from all over the world.
I learned a bit about plastic recycling some twenty years ago when for two months I walked the streets of the beach cities in the Los Angeles area collecting bottles and cans. I found out then that the plastic that was not deposit bottles was gathered into great shipping crates and sold to China. In turn many American companies bought the resulting pellets from China! This film shows why it was economic to ship the plastic waste to China and then effectively speaking buy back a value-added product. Quite simply the labor costs were and are so much less.
Curiously this is an uplifting doc with almost no political message. Because the people are shown going about their daily lives we come to feel we know them, and indeed their hopes and dreams and the way they live with one another is very much like people everywhere.
Director Jiuliang Wang demonstrates in this film that he has a fine eye for the right kind of detail and a good sense of people and even how to tell a story, because, yes this is a story, a true one about people living in poverty but filled with hope. Wang is also the director of "Beijing Besieged by Waste" (2012) which I haven't seen yet.
--Dennis Littrell, author of "The World Is Not as We Think It Is"
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