In the deeply moving documentary Iron Moon, filmmakers Qin Xiaoyu and Wu Feiyue explore the language and lives of five of China’s so-called “worker-poets,” including Xu Lizhi, who jumped to his death at age 23 from the factory where they make iPhones.
The other artists profiled do equally numbing work in coal mines and assembly lines, and like Xu — and all true poets — have no choice but to set pen to paper. “I am the dusty factory wall, and the ivy that climbs it,” writes Dawn Wu, 33, who spends her days sewing dresses in an airless factory; in another poem, she imagines one of the sundresses she’s made being worn by a happy young Westerner: “Unknown girl. I love you.”
What’s surprising and quite lovely about Iron Moon is that the filmmakers, by accident or design, take us so deep inside the daily lives of their subjects that they end up offering a kind of visual tone poem to their nation. China has rarely seemed so stark, yet so beautiful, which may be the contradiction that drove Xu Lizhi to take his fatal leap, even as he left behind these words: “There is no need to sigh, or grieve. I was fine when I came, and I will be fine when I go.”
Directed by Qin Xiaoyu and Wu Feiyue
Opens November 11, Cinema Village