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The Road

Jiang Nengjie

Release year: 2010

Run time: 86 mins

Film type: Documentary


The documentary film, The Road, reveals the status of 22 students who study in a private village school in Hunan Province. Through in-depth interviews, the inner world of these “left-behind children” who lack parental love is explored. We hope that through this film to elicit a response from our society. This documentary film also reveals problems with rural education.

Due to its dilapidated teaching buildings, the only primary school in Guang’an Village had to move to town and be merged with a primary school in 2002. This was in response to government policy, which was to merge more students and schools together. But this caused a series of problems for Guang’an Village. Take traffic as an example: some kids were too young to walk the long distance to school with their parents. Meanwhile, the vast majority of these pupils’ parents worked outside the village, leaving their grandparents farming the land at home. But for their children’s future, at least one grandparent from the family had to rent an apartment in the town to accompany these kids while they studied. This was an additional expense, that could become a heavy burden on families. In these circumstances, the village decided to rebuild a private school, which has enrolled a total of 22 students in Grade One…….


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.

Director's statement

This documentary film, The Road, attempts to explore problems in rural areas from the perspective of children. The purpose of this documentary is to concentrate people’s attention on the educational problem of “left-behind children”, and to reveal the educational marginality, cultural disintegration, and spiritual desertification of rural areas.

Through stories of different families, worries about “left-behind children” from particular families are explored. How can they find a way to cope with reality? Who can help them with their growth? And how can they grow up healthily? The above problems are critical for these rural children. However, in the materialistic world of today, rural education, which is the most important way to foster rural culture, hasn’t been emphasised enough by the government and society.

Nowadays, rural areas are disadvantaged both economically and socially. So, the ultimate purpose of this film is to discuss how to solve the series of problems in rural areas caused by Chinese social development, such as, how they can survive in this fiercely competitive society and what does the government need to do to support the education of “left-behind children”?