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English, Mandarin w/ English subtitles




J.P. Sniadecki




USA / China







Filmed over three years on China's railways, J. P. Sniadecki's masterful documentary traces the vast interiors of a country on the move: flesh and metal, clangs and squeals, light and dark, language and gesture. Scores of rail journeys come together into one, capturing the thrills and anxieties of social and technological transformation.


THE IRON MINISTRY immerses audiences in fleeting relationships and uneasy encounters between humans and machines on what will soon be the world's largest railway network.


  • Jury Award, 2015 Ann Arbor Film Festival

  • Best Film, 2015 Barcelona L'Alternativa Film Festival

  • 2015 International Film Festival of Rotterdam

  • 2015 Portland International Film Festival

  • 2015 Harvard Film Archive

  • 2015 Images Festival

  • 2015 Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival

  • 2014 Locarno International Film Festival

  • 2014 Mostra Indie Brazil Film Festival

  • 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival

  • Special Mention, 2014 Camden International Film Festival

  • 2014 Chicago International Film Festival

  • 2014 DocLisboa Film festival

  • 2014 Viennale Film Festival

  • 2014 San Diego Asian Film Festival

  • 2014 CPH:DOX Documentary Film Festival

  • 2014 San Diego Asian Film Festival

  • 2014 RIDM Documentary Film Festival

  • 2014 New York Film Festival

"Critics Pick! A work of art - vivid and mysterious and full of life."

A. O. Scott, The New York Times

"The train has always been a major metaphor for change, but here there is an especially interesting sense of ambiguity...The danger of hurtling to modernity is always present, rattling along the ever-lengthening tracks."

Daniel Walber, NonFics

"The real focus of THE IRON MINISTRY isn't the train but the world zipping past it."

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

"Critics Pick! Moving, revelatory, and often funny."

Alan Scherstuhl, The Village Voice

"His approach is paradoxically both self-effacing and nosy, displaying an insatiable curiosity about the apparently mundane textures of the train's interiors as well as its passengers... Occasionally the sheer velocity of vehicular motion sees the image excitingly blur into chaos, like fleeting, avant-garde shorts that effortlessly conjure the dazzlingly abstract out of the quotidian and the concrete."

Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter

"Shot over three years of riding the rails throughout all parts of China, but edited to seem like it's one fluid trip, J.P. Sniadecki's THE IRON MINISTRY starts off as a collection of these interior impressions, establishing atmosphere, sound, image, and also the smells - of garbage, meat, sweat, and ever-present cigarettes."

Mark Peranson, Festival del Film Locarno

"[T]he best film about China in the twenty-first century that I've seen to date... compiles three years of footage shot during rides on China's extensive railway system. A cow stomach is sliced into edible bits; a man puffs on a bamboo cigar-holder between compartments; the filthy floor is lined with cigarette butts and sleeping human bodies; a precocious little boy sarcastically encourages the crowd to piss and shit in the aisles."

Travis Jeppesen, Artforum

"Sniadecki offers a formally controlled look at the range of classes, the implied changes wrought by China's economic boom, and the interactions particular to train travel. Refreshingly, Sniadecki allows the film - or rather, some passengers - to engage in politics, from the rights of minorities to economic pressures."

Jay Weissberg, Variety

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