From Camilla French and Judy Brettschneider of Current TV:
Gathering Dust is a collection of fleeting portraits of migrants in Beijing. It visits a cleaner, a migrant school teacher, street vendors, sex workers and migrant children. These migrants come from poor rural areas, and when in Beijing, live at the fringes of urban society. Yet they perform many of the menial jobs without which, Beijings and Chinas astonishing development would not be possible. We wanted to capture these stories on film and spent 3 weeks in Beijing shooting the project. It wasnt always easy, as migration is a sensitive subject. We found many closed doors, especially with the Olympics only one year away. But in the end, we wanted to focus on personal stories of migrating to Beijing from different parts of China. Official statistics place the number of internal migrants over 130 million: 10% of Chinas entire population. Today, they make up more than 40% of the urban workforce, and being largely unskilled labourers, and perform menial tasks such as rubbish collection and construction. Despite their large numbers, internal migrants are strongly disenfranchised compared to urban residents. Chinas household registration system (hukou) ties government services to native place and occupation. Poor migrants are prevented from accessing social services in urban areas, such as subsidized housing, free education and pensions. Living conditions are often cramped, and diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis spread easily. In 2006, 80% of new HIV cases reported in Beijing were migrant workers. Children inherit the hukou from their parents, and without government education, they have little chance on improving their social status. Annual school fees in Beijing exceed the income of some construction workers. Roughly half of migrant children therefore cannot attend school, and nearly 10% are forced to drop out. There are cheaper migrant schools. But teaching is often sub-standard, and diplomas are largely unrecognized by state education authorities.