For the past three decades, the world has carefully watched China’s rapid economic development being carried out on an unprecedented scale. Facing the global financial crisis of 2008, the Chinese government has issued a dramatic $586 billion dollar plan originally defined as an attempt to minimize the global crisis' impact on the world’s second-largest economy by encouraging massive investments in infrastructure and social welfare throughout Mainland China. The plan has been called the "Second Great Leap Forward" in reference to Chairman Mao’s disastrous plan in the 1940’s to force industrialization on China's agrarian society by mobilizing its entire citizenry to refine metal, tragically costing millions of lives to famine and malnutrition for years to come.
In 2010, Chinese documentarist Zhang Zanbo is able to obtain an unprecedented access to the implementation of the grand financial plan. For the three years that follow, he would closely document the construction of a section of a highway in a quiet village in Hunan, a province in central China widely known as the birthplace of Chairman Mao.
With a rare tapestry of voices, "The Road" ultimately challenges the narrative embedded in the collective psyche of China's workforce. Zhang shifts his gaze on the human fabric from within, and provides a nuanced portrayal of exploiters and exploited alike, revealing heartwrenching accounts of villagers forced out of communities and of migrant workers left to endure perilous conditions in order to survive in radically changing times, and partake in yet another uncompromising attempt on behalf of the government to transform large remnants of agrarian workforce to serve China's radical forms of modernization and the nation's leading role in a global experiment in hypercapitalist era.
In its subversive reflection on economic disillusionment and the possibility of a socially stratified nation collapsing under the ideal, Zhang's contemporary exploration of labor inherently evokes China's ancient roads of prosperity as a cautionary tale before a new radical chapter in China's history is written.
95 Minutes | Chinese (Hunan and Sichuan dialects) with English subtitles.