Cheap food needs cheap – often illegal – labour. Broomfield’s drama is about the human cost, and it reeks authenticity.

So, to play illegal Chinese workers in Britain, he casts non-professional actors who had themselves been illegal entrants. A risky strategy, but then his actors are superb – especially Ai Qin Lin, as Ai Qin, who has paid smugglers $25,000 dollars and left her child behind.

Broomfield never forces anything, and his story – based around the drowning of 23 Chinese cockle pickers at Morecambe Bay in 2004 – arises naturally from their circumstances. And, filming in real locations like meat plants and shitty (sometimes literally) overcrowded hovels, he creates a powerful feeling of entrapment and exclusion.

He pulls it off admirably – this is sickeningly convincing, but not without hope.

mag cover This article is from the January 2007 issue of New Internationalist.
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