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This chapter examines three recent documentaries that focus on the children of migrant workers and their access to education. These documentaries include Jocelyn Ford’s Nowhere to Call Home, Lixin Fan’s Last Train Home, and Ji Dan’s When the Bough Breaks. These films dramatize conflicts between the parents’ objectives and their children’s desires, while raising the possibility that the filmmakers’ interests may diverge from those of the families they are documenting. In this way, the documentaries examine and problematize issues of education, futurity, and the ethics of observation and representation, as they coalesce around the figure of the migrant child in contemporary China. Situating the discussion in the context of ongoing research at a migrant school in Beijing, the chapter argues that these films allow us to think more broadly about the precarious place of migrant children in a rapidly changing China, in which the promises of China’s education system, and its labor regimes, are anything but certain.

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