I love travelling by train (it's also generally a relatively environmentally friendly way to travel) and was delighted to have this opportunity to travel by train through a country I've never visited and am never likely to visit.
The Iron Ministry takes us on a train ride through China, offering an alternative view of the country as seen from the well used public transport system.
Filmed over a period of three years and spliced together from footage of many different train journeys in different parts of China, The Iron Ministry moves seamlessly from close observation of the workings of the train to the behaviour of staff and passengers with only occasional glimpses out of the windows. We see a street of smog shrouded high rise blocks in Beijing and a view of tree covered hills, but other than that the focus is very much an interior one.
The trains are overcrowded, with people sitting in the aisles and near the doors, people taking over the door area to prepare meat for sale or to eat their instant noodles. A young man wanders through the train demonstrating his wonderful cleaning cream that can clean anything, upsetting one young passenger who is distraught to see his artfully muddied up trainers given a clean against his will. Women sit embroidering complicated designs on the soles of slippers.
Elsewhere the film maker eavesdrops on conversations on issues including multicultural relations, the housing market, pollution and the political situation in China.
I would have liked more views from the windows and less spying on people in the sleeping compartments, but otherwise this immersive film is a fascinating and insightful (though obviously very partial) view of China.
The Iron Ministry is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival
1330, 20 June and 1830, 28 June, both at Cineworld
You can read all my reviews of films at this years film festival by following these links:
Index Zero - dystopian film set in a future Fortress Europe
30 Days Wild goes to the cinema - how the landscape backdrops two films set in very different countries (Sand Dollars and The Gulls)
Disclaimer - I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended free press screenings for these films