The upcoming Festival dei Popoli will feature the film ‘Chen’ (translation: ‘Dust’), by award wining Chinese documentary filmmaker Zhu Rikun. The film explores the condition of Chinese workers in a Chinese mining and industrial zone. Mr. Rikun will be in Florence to present the film Thursday December 4 at 6.30 pm and Friday December 5 at 10.00 am at the Odeon Theater. See a synopsis of the film and read Rikun’s Director’s Note by clicking here.
Promotion of the film is supported by Han Dong Fang, the founder of the Chinese Labor Bulletin (CLB), who joined La Pietra Dialogues last spring for a very interesting Dialogue with NYU Florence students about labor conditions in China, the Chinese economy and the role of dissident activists.
Read more about the condition of Chinese miners in this article in the Huffington Post from January 2012, reprinted in the CLB, ‘The World’s Deadliest Profession: Coal Miners Pay for China’s Economic Miracle’. The article also features the 2012 documentary To the Light, by NYU Journalism School graduate Yuanchen Liu, which chronicles the lives of miners in Sichuan, China. Fore more about Liu and his film click here and here.
Read this article by Zhu Rikun in the New Statesman from October 2012, ‘The Hazards for Independent Chinese Cinema’.
And for more on Independent Filmmaking in China see ‘Independent Filmmaking in China: The Age of Dissent’, The New Yorker, April 2011.
A group of former miners from the mountainous villages of Sichuan take on the government in their bid to get compensation for the deadly lung disease pneumoconiosis. He Bing is a fighter. He has pneumoconiosis; his father has pneumoconiosis, as does his brother. Another brother has already died from the disease. Together with his comrade in arms, Chen Xiezhong, He Bing travels back to the dust-filled mines where they contracted the disease in order to file a lawsuit against the government. Chen Xiezhong has done more than anyone to bring the miners together, but the disease eventually took its toll and he passed away in 2012. As a final gesture, he donated his corneas for research at the hospital that had taken care of him in his last months.
The miners are under constant pressure, harassment and intimidation from the local authorities who see them as threats to social stability. But they never give up. The battle for compensation is continued by Hu Qihong, who grew up in the same village as Chen Xiezhong, and who has now married, Zhao Mingxiu, the widow of another villager who died from pneumoconiosis. We travel back home with Hu Qihong to see first-hand the devastation that this terrible disease, combined with the heartless attitude of local officials, has wrought in this picturesque but profoundly sad mountain village.
Pneumoconiosis is the by far the most prevalent occupational disease in China. Statistics reveal that China is home to over six million people with pneumoconiosis. Many of them have already died of this disease, and more will follow.
Our film crew investigates the stories of several workers from Muchuan County in Sichuan, who have all contracted pneumoconiosis while working in the mines. We focus on the worker activists who are standing up for their rights and demanding compensation. Life is hard and the challenges are many, but these enlightened individuals are striding out on the rocky path in defense of their rights.
At the time the film was completed, a large number of workers with pneumoconiosis from remote parts of China, were still flocking to the coastal cities in search of work. Many others were stuck in the mountains, helpless, awaiting death.
They have done their best, but their plight goes largely unnoticed. Their lives come and go like dust, occasionally flickering under the sun, then disappearing into nothingness in the blink of an eye.
We hope that this film can arouse public interest in this terrible disease and the struggle of China’s workers so that their lives can improved by greater interaction with society at large.
About Zhu Rikun:
Zhu Rikun is an independent film director and producer, and a film festival curator. He is the founder and artistica director for Fanhall Films and Fanhall Canter for Arts. Rikun was born in Guangdong province. He studied finance in Guanghua School of Management in Peking University from 1996 to 2000.In 2001 he founded Fanhall Films for film production, distribution and film festival organizing. He produced and distributed many important Chinese independent films that contributed a lot to the film art in China. Rikun established DOChina – Documentary Film Festival China in 2003, one of the earliest independent film festival in China. He is also the co-founder and program director of Beijing Independent Film Festival (since 2006 ). From 2005 to 2010 he is aslo the artistic director for LXT film fund. In 2007 he co-founded and joined Huangniutian Film Group. He has been the jury for Hong Kong International Film Festival (2012), Locarno Film Festvail (2011), CinDi-Seoul Digital Cinema Film Festival.
Since 2012, he turned into a film director and artist. His first short documentary film Cha Fang (The Questioning) was finished in 2013 and shown in more than twenty international film festivals and won a few prize like best short documentary award in Festival Dei Popoli. The Dossier is Zhu Rikun’s first feature length documentary film. Finished in 2014, it has been selected by Locarno Film Festival and Vancouver International Film Festival.