Hear the moans of ghosts who boarded this train at dusk and will only alight at dawn.

The immediate thing I recalled while watching the documentary The Iron Ministry is one of my favorite tracks by the brilliant UK dubstep producer Burial. It's called "South London Boroughs," and it's on the very first record of his decade-long career. The track opens with the rattle of a train that sounds like it's cutting through the darkest part of the urban night. We hear the rolling of steel wheels, the clanking of thick chains, the swaying of linked cars. We also hear the moans of ghosts who boarded this train at dusk and will only alight at dawn.

The Iron Ministry, which is directed by J.P. Sniadecki, is about the trains of modern China. Some of these trains are very old and rickety. Others are very new, fast, and flashy. All are linked into one movement through the film's 82 minutes. Sometimes the train stops, and people carrying fruits, vegetables, pots and pans board one by one. There is even a butcher's shop on this train. The liver of some large mammal hangs from the ceiling. Below it, a woman stretches and folds a sheet of fat. On another section of this national train, there is a conversation between men, one of whom is a Hui Muslim. He is complimented for speaking fluent Chinese. He is also asked to explain why his religion produces such perfect monsters as Osama bin Laden. China, he is told, wants peace for all and equality with minorities. This conversation goes nowhere.

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There are other people on the train, other stories. There is some sadness in all of this talking, butchering, eating, smoking, and dreaming ("I heard Hangzhou is a beautiful city... I will see for myself," says a young factory worker as she looks out the window). China is a country that doesn't seem to know where it is going and is slowly forgetting where it came from.

A part of this very impressionistic documentary feels like People's Park on wheels—which makes sense, because the director of that documentary, J.P. Sniadecki, is also the director of Ministry. Another part of the doc, particularly its examination of class dynamics, brings to mind Bong Joon-ho's brutal Snowpiercer. But in terms of cinematography, editing, and soundtrack, which has Chinese pop music entering and exiting scenes like ghosts, it's Burial's beats that come closest to the mood of The Iron Ministry.

Annual Seattle Erotic Art Festival and Halloween party returns to Seattle Center October 29 –31!
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