The Iron Ministry
Direct from the Locarno and New York Film Festivals, this film by American documentarian J.P. Sniadecki (Foreign Parts, People’s Park) is a vision of modern China as seen through the eyes of her citizens as they traverse the country.
Shot over three years, The Iron Ministry weaves a disparate tapestry of various train journeys into a seamless ride across one of the most complex modern nations.
Like Leviathan and Manakamana, products of Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab, J.P. Sniadecki's films are borne of the intersection between academia, ethnography and traditional filmmaking. The resulting film allows audiences to feel as though they are riding the rails themselves. Moving effortlessly between observation and more mediated encounters, the director - who speaks fluent Mandarin - engages the travellers in discussions on contemporary politics, culture and religion.
There are moments of performance too, the most memorable being by a boisterous young boy who hollers his own funny, very non-official train announcements from the top bunk of his sleeper car.
The film owes a great debt to the sheer diversity that comes from commuting in the world's most populated nation. In contrast to the common misconception of communist uniformity, Sniadecki relishes in the huge depth of diversity and subversion that abounds on the train. With complex editing and sound design, this journey with no discernible beginning or end offers an insightful and entertaining view of a world rarely seen on screen.
Film, Talks & Performances
Made in China
A discussion about the complex and nuanced contemporary transformation brought on by rapid urbanisation, that is forcing China to take different approaches to environmental issues, the pace of development, and global connections.
Featuring Dr Siqing Chen and Dan Edwards. Includes screening of The Iron Ministry (J.P. Sniadecki, 2014).