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At the Seaside

Hu Jie

Release year: 2000

Run time: 50 mins

Film type: Documentary


More than 100 years ago in China, in order to avoid war and poverty, there was a large population migration in Shandong Province. People fled to the three less harshly-governed northeastern provinces. 100 years later, some of their descendants, and descendants of the Guangdong region, returned to their hometown—Shandong—along the migration route of their ancestors, in order to escape poverty. They are engaged in various high output, high risk industries.

Jia Qingyun's family is one of these. In 1988, due to the difficulties of living and working in the rural northeast, the couple decided to sell everything, collect enough money for the train tickets, and leave Mulan County in Heilongjiang Province with their three children. They went all the way to their relatives on the island of Xuejia in the Shandong sea. However, their relatives did not have space for their family of five, so they built a simple hut on the rocky beach outside the village. They relied on fishing boats to work, and in the undulating waves, they fished for a kind of vegetable seaweed needed by food factories. However, in the land where their ancestors lived, they did not have property of their own, nor did they have a household registration record. They were classified as migrants, their children paying twice as much tuition for school as the students in the village. Jia's sister's family also returned to their hometown. They live in another village and live by selling eggs. The difficulties and indifference they face make them miss their home in the northeast, but where is their home? They have to face the sea with their children and strive to survive.


Director biography

Hu Jie is an independent historian, artist, and filmmaker. Born in Jinan, Shandong in 1958, he graduated from the Art College of the People’s Liberation Army. He works in oils and woodcuts from his lakeside studio in Nanjing. His films are among the most important documents of China’s unacknowledged “unoffcial history”, and include Looking for Lin Zhao’s Soul (2005), about a martyr-poet critic of Mao; and Though I Am Gone (2007), about an elite Beijing girls’ high school whose students murdered their headmaster at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.