Ghosts (15)



Drama (2006)
99mins UK

Starring: Ai Qin Lin, Zhan Yu, Zhe Wei
Director: Nick Broomfield
Writer(s): Nick Broomfield, Jez Lewis
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Drama based on harrowing news reports in 2004 about the 23 illegal Chinese immigrants who died picking cockles in Morecambe Bay. Documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield relives the hellish ordeal of the victims in his first fictional feature, witnessing the unfolding tragedy through the eyes of single mother Ai Qin, who is smuggled into Britain in the hope of making a better life for her family back in China.

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Nominated for FIPRESCI Critics Award, San Sebastian

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In Short

Ai Qin Lin as 'Ai Qin' in Nick Broomfield's 'Ghosts'In the early hours of 5 February 2004, twenty three Chinese cocklers were drowned in Morecambe Bay. Director Nick Broomfield (His Big White Self, Kurt & Courtney) eschews his trademark face-to-camera style, leaving the story to be told by former illegal immigrants. While the acting is thus not always RADA-approved, it reeks authenticity, and with lives as removed from our own as these, each frustration and sorrow feels all the more real for it.

In Full

In the early hours of 5 February 2004, twenty three Chinese cocklers were drowned in Morecambe Bay. Their plight forced Britain to take a closer look at the way its immigration system had created a trapped underclass exploited by ruthless gangs and gangmasters.

Nick Broomfield's film tells the story of Ai Qin, a young woman from Fuijan province, who pays a snakehead gang USD25,000 to smuggle her from China to Britain, only to end up stranded on Morecambe sands that fateful winter morning.

Ai's first stop in England is a two bedroom house in Norfolk, which she shares with fifteen fellow illegals. Here she gets by working in a series of low-paid, short-term jobs; from harvesting crops to a short spell in a poultry processing plant. The pay is bad and each immigrant struggles to make ends meet, let alone send money back home to China so their families can pay off the snakehead's spiralling loan. As winter sets in, even these agro-industry opportunities dry up and the team is forced to break up to find work. Ai refuses to go to London to work as a masseuse and so heads north with some of the others to the lucrative cockle beds of Morecambe Bay.

Unusually, Broomfield (His Big White Self, Kurt & Courtney, Fetishes) eschews his trademark face-to-camera style, leaving the story to be told by former illegal immigrants. While the acting is thus not always RADA-approved, it reeks authenticity, and with lives as removed from our own as these, each frustration and sorrow feels all the more real for it.

Peter D. Clee, October 2006

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