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Children at a Village School

Jiang Nengjie

Release year: 2014

Run time: 90 mins

Film type: Documentary


It’s a chilly winter in 2011. As the documentary filmmaker of Left-behind Dreams, I left Beijing, and came back to the village in a remote mountainous area in Hunan Province. The children had just moved to the new school building, but the situation was still terrible. Being so poor, so far away from their parents, they never get equal opportunities for education.

2009. A shining spring. The villagers have been applying to reconstruct the village school forever. Finally, they struggle to victory, and get permission.

2010. The new school is built in the autumn. But, the school can’t recruit enough teachers, as it can’t afford it. The one long-suffering teacher can barely make a living. The children’s daily guardians, their aged grandparents or teenager brothers, can barely take care of themselves. No one has told these children how to behave properly, how to be a decent boy or girl. It hurts when you wonder how they can spoil themselves, throwing away all the books. How are their inner selves?

Then the precious teacher gets transferred. The whole school is rotting away.

The three families we had been shooting for the last three years face some heart-breaking moments.

The summer of 2012. Thanks to the help of social media, the children got some sweet presents. But they are still left behind. They need love, they need education, they need attention. But these are scarce.

The Spring Festival of 2013. Will their parents come back to them?


Director biography

Jiang Nengjie is a renowned independent filmmaker, documentarian, and director. He was born in Hunan province in 1985 and was member of the first generation left behind by parents looking for work in cities. In 2009 he established his Mianhuasha Film Studio and produced numerous documentary films featuring the countryside in China. In 2010, he made the documentary film The Road, which was nominated for the 7th China Documentary Film Festival. His most well-known film is Children at a Village School (2014), which is about village children left behind by their parents who go to the cities to work as migrant workers. It won Best Documentary Film in the 3rd Phoenix Documentary Awards. He has produced numerous films since then, including The Ninth Grade (2015), Anti-Japanese War Veteran (2015), Jia Yi (2016), The Sichuan Army Veteran Peng Guochen (2017), Yun Jie (2018), and others. His most recent documentary, Miners, the Horsekeeper and Pneumoconiosis (2019), has been very popular online due to the increasing public attention to health issues after the coronavirus outbreak. He is currently working on Rainbow Cruise, which is a documentary film about the LGBT community in China.