Gold Underground

- CHINA / 2012 / Chinese / Color, B&W / Blu-ray / 138 min

Directors: Li Xiaofeng, Jia Kai
Photography: Li Xiaofeng
Editing: Jia Kai
Sound: Jia Kai, He Tao
Source: Li Xiaofeng

Bordering the Ordos Desert and Loess Plateau in Northwestern China, is the city of Yulin. Around 40 years ago, natural resources were discovered beneath the ground of this poor region of vast and barren land. It became a boomtown overnight, sucking in people with dreams of making a fortune, achieving rapid growth and the nickname of “China’s Kuwait.” We meet coal miners and their management, truck drivers who transport coal, and a woman who hires them out of her store. In three chapters, each told through a different visual approach, the reality of this Chinese “Gold Rush” is revealed.

[Director’s Statement] One can find a miniature copy of contemporary China in the sudden development of northern Shaanxi Province. Despite the rapid rise of the region’s overall GDP, and in contrast to the new wealth visible on the surface, the poorest of the poor remain as destitute as ever. As the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, more and more poor people dream of getting rich quick, fantasizing about driving Hummers and buying lavish mansions. The atmosphere that gathers here makes people restless. It makes them anxious.

The poor work desperately hard in pursuit of their goal of wealth, while those who toil in the mining industry are rather losing their homes and damaging their health, in the end even losing their faith, a value they had built up over time.

There are no other options. This is the unavoidable reality that the Chinese people face today. However, once you become unable to obtain even the most basic things necessary for survival—home, health, and faith—how can you even feel happiness? What do you have to do to find a reason to live?

- Li Xiaofeng

Born in Jiangxi, China. A documentary filmmaker and associate professor at Tongji University. As a documentary filmmaker, Li Xiaofeng has been obsessed with the concept of “time alchemy” in his filmmaking, which allows the story and fate of a character to be presented naturally over a long period of shooting. In recent years, he has expanded his work from individual and family settings to broader social scenes. His films have been officially selected by a number of international film festivals, and Gold Underground (2012) was awarded the grand prize of 2012 Beijing Independent Film Festival. His films include, Spring Gongs (2001), Walk in the Dark (2005), Pedaling Father (2007), and My Last Secret (2008), the latter two co-directed with Jia Kai.

- Jia Kai

Jia Kai is a Chinese documentary filmmaker and assistant professor at Tongji University. She has translated three books, including a biography of Robert J. Flaherty. She is co-director of Pedaling Father (2007) and My Last Secret (2008), together with Li Xiaofeng. She has also produced numerous programs for CCTV, Beijing TV, and Shanghai TV.