The Ninth Grade
Release year: 2014
Run time: 69 mins
Film type: Documentary
Class 172 is a key class for their excellent students of an ordinary secondary school in Hunan Province, from which the kids’ main goal is to graduate to one of the best province-level high school – No.1 high school in the county. In recent years, the school’s enrolment rate in the high school has been unsatisfactory, and this year, the newly promoted teacher in charge–Mr. Xiang, who only graduated a few years ago—is their brightest hope to teach the students and raise the enrolment rate for the school.
Most of the kids are born to poor families, and they’re left behind in the countryside as their parents go to the city for work. Life for them is basically struggling between their rebellious feelings and their studies. To achieve a better future, they must try their best to study hard, getting up at 6 a.m. and usually go to bed after 9 p.m
Finally, as a result of the huge pressure and the irresistible rebelliousness of their age, conflict breaks out right about the time of their final examinations…
This documentary presents the lives of a class of ninth grade students. You will find here not only the strength to fight for one’s future, but also sadness you won’t know how to talk about…
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.
The Ninth Grade, following The Road and Children at a Village School, is my third documentary that focuses on left behind children, and also the last one of this series.
Being different from the other two, The Ninth Grade focuses more on the educational problems of these left behind children, who lack their parents’ love growing up, and tries to show the psychological changes when they reach their rebellious age. The original idea was to follow an ordinary class. However, due to various concerns, in the end we followed this key class. But the problems exist just as much here, and there are still a lot things society needs to think about.
Since graduating from university in 2009, I’ve kept using my camera to pay close attention to these left-behind children, and devoted myself to charity panoramas in the past two years, hoping to draw society’s attention to this special group.
It always makes me feel helpless whether I shoot these kids’ lives or present them to the public. This is a serious societal problem, and I am sorry that I cannot do more. Maybe I’m just a documentary maker after all.
Now, I just wish to follow these kids with all my heart, to witness them growing up, their development, and to tell their stories during this era of rapid development.