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New Film Portrays Rural Migrant Workers with Warmth, Dignity
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China's much neglected and socially frowned upon migrant workers are the stars of a film released in China on Saturday that portrays them with dignity and respect.


Loach Is Fish Too, directed by Yang Yazhou, follows the story of two workers from the countryside who share the name Ni Qiu (Loach) as they try to eke out a subsistence living in the capital, Beijing.


Approximately 140 million farmer peasants, more than a tenth of China's 1.3 billion population, have migrated to the cities for work. They are subject to bias, discrimination and shabby treatment as they are poorly educated and do low-paid jobs as housekeepers, construction workers, waiters and repairmen.


Yang, know as "the people's movie maker", is adept at reflecting social changes by portraying the lives of common people. His previous works include Pretty Big Feet, the story of rural teachers.



"The message of Loach Is Fish Too is that as long as I stand straight, I'm equal to you. Everyone has dignity," he told Xinhua News Agency.


All the actors worked without the benefit of make-up to show the gritty reality of migrant life, except one who played an intellectual, he added.


Migrant workers have constituted the largest passenger group in the country's holiday travel peaks during past 25 years or so since the late 1970s and early 1980s, as they leave the cities for family reunions. During these periods of time, many jobs are left without workers.


Few Chinese movies have focused on this disadvantaged sector of society despite its increasing influence on the country.


"It's wrong that such a large part of society is so neglected in art," Yang acknowledged.


Compared to the aloof portrayal of migrant workers in The World (2004) by up-and-coming director Jia Zhangke, Loach Is Fish Too shows more warmth, sincerity and humor.


A winner of the Best Artistic Contribution award at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year, the movie is vying for 12 awards with 29 other Chinese-made films at the ongoing the 13th Beijing Student Film Festival, the year's first film festival on the Chinese mainland.


(Xinhua News Agency April 17, 2006)

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