A little girl, her hair in matted braids, watches her mother sort plastic water bottles in the junkyard. Two children walk by, and stare at the little girl. The sister asks, “Why is that girl not in uniform? Her brother responds, “She’s probably not in school, and has no homework.” The sister says, “It would be nice to not have homework…”
Director Charles Xiuzhi Dong’s AFTER CLASS short film follows the story of little girl Min Min and her aging mother who live together in a dark, cramped bedroom. Min Min’s mother is a janitress at the local elementary school. All day, she toils without complaint. She mops the school hallways vigorously, while Min Min is left alone to her own company.
Socially alienated from her friends, Min Min peers through the wired fence to see the other children outfitted in neatly- pressed blue and white uniforms. She watches them play on the school field during recess, Meanwhile, we watch Min Min’s mother ask the school principal about the requirements of sending her daughter to the school. The principal reveals that since Min Min is not registered as a resident of the region, her mother must pay an extra fee of thirty thousand.
After Class Tells A Story of Marginalization in China
We are held in fearful suspense as we follow Min Min who carelessly wanders into the bright, pristine school hallways, a forbidden slice of paradise. Hearts clenching, we discover that Min Min’s mother makes a dangerous choice out of love for her daughter. In fixed horror, we look on powerlessly as events take an even darker turn.
After Class captures a heartbreaking tale of mother and daughter, and the realities of the school registration system for impoverished families in China. This is a story punctuated by gut wrenching moments that are made even more painful through its drawn out delivery, in this writer’s view.
After Class will likely appeal to anyone interested in films addressing social issues, and is especially recommended for those who desire to delve into a different cultural perspective. If you too are intrigued by tear jerking stories of mother/daughter relationships, After Class is a top short film pick for you.
Director: Charles Xiuzhi Dong
Producer: Branton Choi
Executive Producer: Brenden Hubbard
Director of Photography: Stefan Nachmann
For more information on the film and upcoming screenings visit the website of director Charles Xiuzhi Dong.
Images Courtesy of AFTER CLASS
About the Author: Claire Hou
Claire Hou is a sophomore at Brandeis University, where she is pursing a degree in English. Raised in Beijing, China and Long Island, New York, she takes every opportunity to travel and explore new cultures. In her free time, Claire enjoys reading, watching movies and visiting art museums.