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Chinese Movie Database Blog » Blog Archive » Ghosts (2006)
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Ghosts (2006)

Ghosts (2006)
Director: Nick Broomfield
Cast: Ai Qin Lin, Zhan Yu, Wei Zhe

Ghosts (2006) by Nick BroomfieldI saw the poster of Nick Broomfield’s Ghosts in Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema some time ago. There have been more press coverage when it released recently, but I wasn’t sure I could bring myself to watch this film. In the evening of 5th Febuary 2004, I was travelling on a train from Manchester to Edinburgh along the west coast line. As in early Febuary, it was dark outside. When I arrived home I heard the news about the missing Chinese cockle-pickers in Morecambe Bay. The next day it was clear 23 Chinese illegal immigrants were found dead or missing there. Looking at the map, I suddenly realised that on that cold Febuary night, when my train was travelling in Lancashire countryside, I was not too far away from my fellow country men and women who were about to be swallowed by the rising tide.

I finally watched Ghosts. To my surprise there were quite a few people coming to watch this film that for sure won’t give the viewer any pleasure. Although I’m fairly aware of the conditions Chinese illegal migrants live and exploitation they suffer from various news reports, this film still hit me hard, thanks to Broomfield’s matter of fact, non-judgemental way of telling the story, and Ai Qin Lin’s performance as the female lead, who herself was an illegal migrant from Fujian province.

Ghosts is simply a replay of the tragic event. What Ghosts does, is to provide the backstory of the lives that perished that night. The plot loosely follows the journey of Ai Qin, from a village of Fujian to Norfolk, from paddy field to meat processing plants and apply farm, which ends up on the beach of Morecameby Bay. The scene that best illustrates the contrast between the dreams of those illegal migrants have and bleaking reality they face is when Ai Qin and other cockle-pickers arrive at Morecameby Bay, they are attracted to a beautiful rainbow that ‘welcomes us’.

An interesting aspect of the film is its use of music. Chinese pop songs are constantly sung by the characters or played in the background. The songs become the only way they can remind themself the ‘bright future’ they are supposedly to have and their family connection back home. My only objection is the use Zhou Xuan’s Hua Yang de Nian Hua played when Ai Qin and other migrants cross the border of Eastern European countries in the fog of dawn. This is cerntainly not their song.

I wish the film could tell us more about why Ai Qin and others continue to risk their life to come to work illegally in the UK. Ai Qin, like other others, is not naive enough to believe that money is easy to earn in the UK. They are vaguely aware of the risk and suffering they may face. But they still come. I wish the film could dig deep into the different personal circumstances, and perhaps the social pressure to earn cash quickly abroad and acceptance of the risk. Although the only person in the film involved in organising illegal immigration is not portrated simply as a villain, there is nothing more about why and how this is widely spreaded in some parts of China.

Illegal migrants are at the bottom of UK’s economic chain, ruthlessly exploitated by the economic machine. At the end of the film, subtitles inform us although a few people have been convicted, the victims’ families are still in debt. And the news I have heard is that migrant cockle-pickers are back at Morecambe Bay. Only this time they are Polish.

Ghosts: official site

The Morecambe Victim Fund

This review first appears on WaterInk.

18 Responses to “Ghosts (2006)”

  1. on 10 Mar 2007 at 4:59 pm Lee Jie

    I wish The Morecambe Victim Fund is ”genuinely” to help those chinese victims ! how many family have helped so far ?

  2. on 03 Aug 2007 at 2:48 pm Carl

    If the Chinese people were to set up a Morcambe Victim Fund, perhaps they could “genuinely” help the victims of the this sorry tragedy. It may also do a little to highlight the true fate awaiting illegal immigrants to the UK and prevent people from making the journey at all. It’s a little frustrating that the fault of this appears to be laid at the feet of the English people and their Government. These people were exploited by their own, perhaps their families should be compensated by their own.

  3. on 13 Sep 2007 at 11:33 pm fay

    found yr page after i watched the movie on tele tonite… thx for sharing and i do inspire by it… and feeling sorry for the victims.. or feeling sorry for our chinese fantasy “the oversea’s moon is bigger?!?!”, “goldmines everywhere aboard?!?!”…. i guess it’s time we learn to appreciate our country, “china”, more… be proud of it! ;)

  4. on 17 Sep 2007 at 11:37 am Jez Lewis

    Lu Pin, thank you very much for your thoughtful comments about Ghosts.

    Lee Jie, the fund has raised around £30,000 so far, all of which has been paid to the families of the deceased. All further donations will continue to be sent to them with no deductions whatsoever (no admin costs, fees, etc).

    Jez Lewis
    Co-writer and co-producer of Ghosts, and trustee of the Morecambe Bay Victims Fund.

  5. on 02 Aug 2008 at 11:31 pm irriffugh

    Brilliant!

  6. on 17 Nov 2008 at 8:37 am China tours

    I heard about the news happened to the Chinese cockle-pickers in UK. But I didn’t know the story has been put on screen. I hope more people can see the whole tragedy and learn from it.

  7. on 31 Jul 2010 at 12:14 pm watch full movie

    I hope the Morecambe Victims Fund is a “true” to help victims of these Chinese! How to help families?

  8. on 17 Jun 2012 at 7:34 pm go

    Awesome post . Cheers for, writing on my blog dude! I shall email you soon. I didnt know that.

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