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Migrant Labour series : Scaffolders

Hu Jie

Release year: 1997-1998

Run time: 12 mins

Film type: Documentary


After Reform and Opening, farmers can finally leave the poor rural areas to find jobs in cities. However, the only jobs they can find are those dirty, tiring, dangerous and low-paid jobs that the people in the city don't want to do. From 1997 to 1998, in Nanjing, I filmed migrant workers engaged in different professions for this series of short films: "Scaffolders", "House Demolition Workers", "Cleaners", "Farmer-run Factory", and so on.

Scaffolders are workers who install scaffolding for building construction. In rapidly expanding cities, high-rise buildings are rising from the ground, requiring many construction workers, and therefore a lot of scaffolders. No matter the severe winter or summer heat, the scaffolders have to work outside. After the foundation stone of the high-rise building is laid, they use steel pipes to erect the scaffolding, and after the high-rise building is roofed, they remove the steel pipes bit by bit.

After the Spring Festival, in the mountainous Lu'an area of the old revolutionary base of Anhui Province, a farmer called Xiao Zheng and a young man from the same village prepare to move to the city. The film begins with their communication with their relatives before they leave. Parents and wives worry about them and pray for them. Saying goodbye to their poor but warm homeland, they come to prosperous Nanjing, and, faced with an indifferent city, begin their hard and dangerous work.


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.