In the Underground | Chicago Reader

In the Underground

92 minutes 2015

Documentary maker Song Zhantao takes viewers into the coal mines of Handan City in northern China and profiles some of the miners who work there, using a variety of approaches (fast editing and direct-cinema-style camerawork for the mine scenes and detached, static long takes to record the workers at home). The mix of industrial portraiture and human-interest segments recalls Jia Zhang-ke's fiction-documentary hybrid 24 City (2008), and as in that film, the central concern here is the effect of China's rapid modernization on everyday people. Song observes the miners talking about living hand to mouth, which comes to seem as perilous as their work in the mines; he finds room for optimism, though, in his portraits of the community at play. In Mandarin with subtitles.

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