Over the course of six years, director Li Ma followed a group of petitioners in Beijing: Chinese citizens who feel they have been wronged by local authorities and are seeking justice in the capital. They live in slums, probably number in the tens of thousands, and meet with obstruction at every turn—their ramshackle encampments are demolished, and they are sent away, arrested or committed to a psychiatric hospital.
Their cases vary widely. A piece of land may have been taken from them, or an operation gone wrong. Often it is about money, sometimes a matter of life and death. The need for redress drives them to litigate endlessly, some for as long as 33 years. What keeps these people going, far from home and living as second-class citizens? Ask them and deeply personal motivations or banal reasons emerge, always tinged with a glimmer of hope.
Since making a film about this subject is prohibited, Li Ma used only a small DV camera. The black-and-white footage, the length of the film—almost four hours—and the tenacity of the maker bring the plight of the main characters poignantly close.