Friday, February 19, 2016
The Iron Ministry: Doc on Real-Life Chinese Snowpiercer
The recently released DVD of the 2014 Chinese documentary "The Iron Ministry" perfectly fits the definition of Icarus Films as a distributor of "innovative and provocative documentary films from independent producers around the world." This film, which is edited down from three years of footage shot on passenger trains in the Chinese rail system, provides a very candid look at that system.
The clear contrasts that span from the disgustingly primitive conditions in which rural folk dismember slaughtered livestock to the first-class compartment in which the cameras are banned evoke images of the uber-awesome 2013 drama "Snowpiercer." The underlying premise of life aboard that fictional train is that last surviving people of earth live on a highly segregated train that constantly rides along an enormous circular track.
The most memorable moment in "Ministry" comes early in the film. An adorable, brightly smiling, and enthusiastic tyke in what seems to be the middle-class compartment makes gleeful satirical announcements. These very crude proclamations include directing passengers to empty their bowels and their bladders in public areas and to set off their weapons of mass destruction. Kids do say the darnedest things.
The most "ripped from the headlines" topic in the film involves a conversation with young Muslim immigrants. These 20-somethings discuss the low Muslim population in China, the attitudes that they face, and what it considered the inappropriate practice of some Muslims of identifying the Chinese community in which they live as the place that they are from.
Another "character" is the food vendor, whose limited wares are in great demand, and the folks who run afoul of the conductors. We additionally see very crowded conditions in several classes on the train and the tremendous amounts of trash that passengers simply throw on the floor.
The sad part about all this is that the Chinese rail system seem much more reliable and modern than the heavily beleagured commuter rail system in the Boston metropolitan area. Further, all but the lowest levels of service on the Chinese system are cleaner and more pleasant than the Boston system. Those characteristics earn the trains that service the Athens of America the nickname the TSR, which stands for Trans-Siberian Railway.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Ministry" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.