Ghosts (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/01/2007

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

Powerful, superbly directed and frequently harrowing docu-drama with a strong performance by Ai Qin Lin.

What's it all about?
British director Nick Broomfield applies his documentary-maker's eye to this scripted (although the dialogue is largely improvised) tale of Chinese migrant workers in the UK. The film opens with a disturbing recreation of the 2004 news event, whereby 23 migrant workers drowned in Morcambe Bay whilst cockle-picking.

The story then flashes back to focus on Ai Qin (Ai Qin Lin), a single mother from Fujian, China, who decides to borrow a large amount of money in order to go to England and support her family back at home. Her gruelling six-month journey is bad enough, but once in Britain things only get worse, from enduring cramped living conditions and dodgy landlords to exhausting, badly-paid and frequently dangerous jobs, such as meat-packing and, eventually, cockle-picking.

The Good
The title of the film is a term that the Chinese use for white people, but it also serves to highlight the fact that illegal migrant workers are essentially invisible in our society. Broomfield's film is careful to include details such as corrupt employment agencies and supermarket employment practices that make the scale of society's complicity in the problem abundantly clear.

The performances are astonishingly authentic and perfectly complement Broomfield's raw, naturalistic filming style – if you didn't know better, you'd swear you were watching a documentary.

The Great
Newcomer Ai Qin (herself an illegal immigrant) gives a genuinely moving performance and makes you feel every emotion, from the tiny glimmer of joy at eating a familiar meal to her overwhelming despair at the hopelessness of her situation.

There's also strong support from Zhan Yu as Ai Qin's minder, whilst in a heartbreaking directorial touch, Ai Qin Lin's real-life parents play her parents in the scenes set in China.

Worth seeing?
Moving, harrowing and likely to make you cry tears of angry frustration, this is a powerful film that demands to be seen. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 20/10/2017 09:45

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