DVD Review: Red Dust

May 9, 2011

Photo courtesy of Red Dust documentary.

At only 21 minutes, Karin Mak’s documentary Red Dust maximizes every second as it follows female workers fighting for medical care from their former employer, China’s GP Batteries factory, after suffering years of cadmium poisoning. The women — mostly rural migrant workers who moved to the city to earn money — endure constant headaches, body aches, sore throats and the high, looming risk of kidney failure, lung cancer and bone disease from exposure to cadmium, which is more poisonous than lead. In their personal lives, they must deal with cost-prohibitive medicines, the emotional toll illness has taken on spouses and families and the threat of intimidation from the factory and police, as independent labor organizing is illegal in China. The women’s sadness and exhaustion is juxtaposed with an ardent determination to support their “sisters united” as they take legal action against GP Batteries and draw attention to workers’ rights and factory conditions. Red Dust, Mak’s thesis film from University of California, Santa Cruz’s social documentation program, beautifully reveals the humanity behind a true David vs. Goliath social justice movement.

Directed by Karin Mak

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Sylvie Kim

contributing editor & blogger

Sylvie Kim is a contributing editor at Hyphen. She previously served as Hyphen's blog coeditor with erin Khue Ninh, film editor, and blog columnist.

She writes about gender, race, class and privilege in pop culture and media (fun fun fun!) at www.sylvie-kim.com and at SF Weekly's The Exhibitionist blog. Her work has also appeared on Racialicious and Salon.



Good thing there's a documentary like this to make the society aware on what is really happening. Great 21 minute masterpiece of Karin Mak. - Phillip