Bitter Money documents China's rapid economic and social transformation by following the rural workers who travel from rural Yunnan to the eastern city of Huzhou, one of the busiest cities of eastern China (with the highest number of part-time workers), to labor in its textile factories in search of scarce jobs and security. But what they find are few opportunities and poor living conditions that push people, even couples, into violent and oppressive relations.
Renowned Chinese documentary filmmaker Wang Bing (Til Madness Do Us Part, Facets Cinémathèque 2016) follows a handful of these workers, both at work where they may labor for more than 12 hours a day and in their off-hours, as they hang around threadbare dorm rooms drinking, dreaming of home, worrying about getting paid, and trying to decide whether their jobs are worth keeping. In one telling moment, a young woman considers joining a pyramid scheme, saying "They can't scam me because I don't have any money." Bitter Money deals directly with the effects of 21st-century capitalism, as Wang Bing acts as witness to the lives of people forced to adapt to a new economic landscape.
Directed by Wang Bing, China/France, 2016, 152 mins. In Mandarin with English subtitles.