THE IRON MINISTRY
Directed by J.P. Sniadecki
Official Selection, 2014 Locarno International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2014 New York Film Festival
J.P. Sniadecki spent three years filming on China’s railways, and what he found was a rampaging microcosm of the country’s rapidly changing economy and identity. The camera often lingers low to the ground, scouring and searching for artifacts while the train barrels forward. Trash litters the floorboards and human bodies are crammed in to every corner. But this is not a grotesque scene; it’s one of transition. Travelers speak about politics, economics, and future plans in cordial fashion, hoping to pass time between stops.
A student of Harvard University’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, Sniadecki (Yumen, SDAFF ’12) has been making avant-garde documentaries in China for years now, exploring the complexities of everyday life through a strikingly Spartan lens. His latest effort is an exercise in proximity, how people share space, and why it matters. The doldrums of a long train ride offer much in the way of discourse and debate, but also simply the opportunity to rest free of the usual frantic thoughts that fill the mind. –Glenn Heath, Jr.