FROM SOMEWHERE TO NOWHERE – Migrant Workers in China

Villi Hermann
Switzerland 2008 | 86 Min. | DigiBeta, OmeU
Q&A with:
Villi Hermann

Some 150 mil­lion Chi­nese jour­ney through their coun­try as migrant work­ers. By and large, it is they who have car­ried China’s eco­nom­ic boom since the 1980s. They labor cease­less­ly at count­less con­struc­tion sites within the cities, and slog away for a pit­tance in fac­to­ries and mines infa­mous for ter­ri­ble work­ing con­di­tions – con­di­tions that fre­quent­ly lead to sick­ness. Their hope of shar­ing in the country’s eco­nom­ic suc­cess is often betrayed. Cur­rent­ly living in Tokyo, Swiss pho­tog­ra­ph­er Andreas Seib­ert has fol­lowed Chi­nese migrant work­ers since 2002. On three of Seibert’s recent trips to China – in 2006, 2007, and 2008 – the pho­tog­ra­ph­er was accom­pa­nied by film­mak­er and fellow coun­try­man Villi Herman. Togeth­er they tra­versed the coun­try, from the boom­ing south to the north, from east to west. They vis­it­ed the migrant work­ers at their places of work, wit­nessed their makeshift shel­ters, and trav­eled with them back to their vil­lages, to the fam­i­lies they must leave behind. Using pow­er­ful imagery, the film illus­trates how such migra­tion is chang­ing Chi­nese soci­ety: about 20 mil­lion chil­dren cur­rent­ly grow up with­out their par­ents, who leave to work in the cities. The images – some­times secret­ly filmed – demon­strate the price the Chi­nese people are being forced to pay for their country’s rapid eco­nom­ic growth. (Solothurn Film Festival)