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"Cotton" - a film by Zhou Hao

The cotton in Arthur & Henry shirts comes from smallholder farmers in India.  Further east, in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, fields are much, much larger, but life is still tough for farmers.

We were privileged this week to see the film Cotton by acclaimed Chinese documentary maker Zhou Hao.  He records the life of a cotton farmer and his family in Xinjiang as they clear the fields, prepare them for planting (including the laying down of hundreds of metres of plastic film, which block weeds and warm the earth but must be horrifically polluting), the back breaking planting by hand, the migration of hundreds of women to pick the cotton at harvest time and, those who spin the cotton and make the clothes.

It's not the cheeriest film in the world, though the moments of bonding and giggling between the women as they leave their family responsibilities behind and pile into the train that will take them on the three day journey to Xinjiang, climbing in through windows and sleeping under the seats and in the luggage racks, has its endearing moments. 

But what it did show, loud and clear, was the hardship of their lives, our privilege in contrast - the well dressed (and well fed) buyers at the Canton Trade Show, were a stark contrast to the farmers and workers - and how little we as consumers generally understand or value the sheer amount of effort* that goes into producing the clothes we wear. 

Here's a short trailer for it, well worth five minutes of your time...

*There's a man whose job it is to turn jeans from inside out to right way round.  All day.  Every day.

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