Home in the Mine

- CHINA / 2021 / Chinese / Color, B&W / Digital File / 109 min

Director, Producer: Chen Junhua
Photography: Chen Junhua, Huo Songfeng
Editing: Chen Junhua, Chen Xiaojing, Jiang Tong, Jiang Fuhai
Sound: Chen Junhua, Wang Huaide, Zhao Ruxiao
Sound Editing: Sun Huabo, Wang Huaide
Music: Ding Ke, Peter Sandberg
Executive Producers: Du Haibin, Chang Chao-wei
Co-Producer: Ruby Chen
Source: Chen Junhua

Since 2012, the coal mining industry of Huainan, China faces a rapid demise as the country’s energy policies turn elsewhere. Small mines close one after another, leaving nothing but the traces of the communities they once supported. Sudden layoffs and a terrible gas explosion speed the already rapid transition. For the Huainan people, the coal mines were as much a source of life as an indefatigable form of control. They are ambivalent—do they stick with a life they know or seek a new one beyond the mines? The director, born and raised in Huainan, turns his gaze to the stream of words and gestures that spill from his parents and friends to learn what it is that this resource buried 800 meters underground has both given and taken away.

[Director’s Statement] My hometown is a coal center in China, my father is a coal miner. When I was young, the company where my father worked was unable to pay wages. My mother left me to work, since then my mother and I lived apart from each other. In 2014, China was once again hit by the coal economic crisis, and the economy of my hometown was hit hard again. Because of my childhood experience, from 2014, I started shooting coal miners including my father, my godmother, and my friend. The whole film takes me as the first perspective. I take myself as an observer, following the three characters to record three different groups of coal miners and record the different impacts of this change on the miners. The film ends with my father retiring from the coal mine in September 2019.

My father became a state-owned coal miner in 1983. Coal miners once had the highest-class status in China, which was a particularly glorious occupation. But in just thirty years, when my father retired in 2019, mining had become a low-level job in China. This story about Chinese miners’ families reflects how economic reform has changed class and society in China. For me, the experience has let me understand why my mother left me.

- Chen Junhua

Director from China. In 2013, Chen made a short documentary called Lu Shan Ji, about the earthquake of Sichuan Province in China, which won prizes at a number of film festivals. Chen is one of the cameramen of the documentary Bitter Money (2016, dir: Wang Bing), which won the best screenplay award at the 73rd Venice Film Festival. Since 2014, Chen has started to research and shoot stories about the coal industry in China. This film won the best proposal of CNEX Theme in 2015. And it entered the 7th CNEX Chinese Doc Forum in 2016, and Docs Port Incheon, 2017.