Last Train rolls into RIDM

Latest doc from EyeSteelFilm opens Montreal festival with a bang, tracing globalization's effects through a Chinese family

Last Train Home

MONTREAL — The RIDM festival opened with a bang Wednesday evening with a screening of Last Train Home, a dramatic look at how global economic conditions have affected a Chinese family.

The latest doc from EyeSteelFilm, the producers of Up the Yangtze and RiP: A Remix Manifesto, looks to be another hit for the upstart Montreal team. First-time director Lixin Fan, who was an associate producer on the award-winning Yangtze, has turned a tale of globalization and migration of labor forces across China into a story with an emotional wallop.

The filled-to-capacity audience at the screening — which included National Film Board film commissioner Tom Perlmutter, Albert Tessier prize winner Paule Baillargeon and former Telefilm Canada festival bureau chief Jean Lefebrve — were treated to the story of the Zhang family, who have been torn apart in order to make a living. With the parents away for most of the year working in factories, the children are raised in the countryside by their grandmother. When the family gets together for the annual spring festival, the Zhangs have an explosive fight, exposing a huge generation gap.

The spring festival, for which over 200 million workers travel from coastal cities to inland villages, is brilliantly visualized by Fan. So is the intimate story of the Zhangs.

Fan amused the crowd by relating that his mother, who lives in China, had only one piece of advice for him about talking to them: ‘Make sure to drink a glass of milk.’

Later, at the opening-night party, the youthful director admitted that the first thing his mother will ask, is: ‘Did you drink too much beer last night?’

The party was held at the Cinémathèque québécoise near Montreal’s trendy St. Denis Street and just two blocks from the screening, which was held at the Maison Theatre. Documentary luminaries attending included the NFB’s French head of production Monique Simard, English head of production Cindy Witten, Films Transit president Jan Rofekamp and directors Magnus Isacsson, Serge Giguère and Frederic Bohbot.

EyeSteel producers Daniel Cross and Mila Aung-Thwin along with filmmaker Eric ‘Roach’ Denis gave a well-attended workshop earlier in the day on how to pitch projects successfully. Clearly, they have become masters at the process.

The Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal runs until Nov. 21.