China’s rural coal towns typically enter the global consciousness only when a mine collapse traps or kills miners. The Shaft, a drama set in one such town, depicts a different sort of slow suffocation, wrought by social and economic stagnation. A triptych tells the tales of three family members: a daughter accused of an affair and forced into an arranged marriage; her brother, who harbors impossible dreams of being a pop star; and their father, whose hard life is fast coming to a close. Compositionally gorgeous and emotionally reserved, the film seethes with a slowly devastating tension.
Have something to say? Send a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. This article first appeared in the January-February 2012 issue of Utne Reader.