China, USA / 2011 / 69 Minutes
Dir. Yuanchen Liu
2011 Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award winner


The bright lights of China’s booming economy are powered by the hard labor of its miners, who work deep in perilous coal shafts around the country. When a miner dies, his family receives a death pension greater than the amount of money he would have made in his lifetime, had he stayed alive. In rural China, where farming alone cannot sustain families, miners have no alternative but to risk their lives daily, descending hundreds of meters underground to dig out the black ore fueling China’s massive electrical grid.

"To the Light" delves into the hopes and struggles of the mining families in Sichuan, west China. The father of two, Luo originally became a coal miner to pay off the fine for violating China’s One Child Policy. Hui, son of another miner, prefers to be coal-train driver than take work far from home. For many families, coal mining has become a principal source of income and the only alternative to factory jobs in distant cities. But the mines are notoriously dangerous and thousands are killed every year. Going deep underground, the film exposes the perils faced by these miners, the slim rewards, and dire consequences when things go wrong. In spite of the risks, the working poor continue to flock to the mines, unable to heed the warning that earning a living wage may also mean dying for it.