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Frau weintWhen Chen Si arrived in the industrial city of Nanjing 20 years ago from a small village, another migrant worker helped him get his footing and find work. He reminded this one Sunday when Chen Si, while walking across the great bridge of the city, crossed paths with a crying man about to commit suicide. Since then, Chen Si spends his weekends patrolling the bridge keeping his eyes open for lonely, desperate people.


Chen Si Lola

He talked with the would-be suicide until he finally left the bridge. Since then, Chen Si spends his weekends patrolling the bridge. He approaches them and tries to convince them that there are solutions to the causes of their despair. Those he saves, he takes to an emergency shelter and learns more about the deeper reasons behind their desperation. For the most part, they are migrant workers, the defrauded or deceived, women beaten by their husbands, and victims of workplace exploitation. Chen Si helps some find lawyers, for others he talks to moneylenders so as to prolong the repayment installments or helps build bridges back to normal life. Every time he saves a person, he can't sleep for nights — sometimes he even spends the night at the shelter, so as to prevent impulsive decisions. Often, there isn't much more that he can do. And then the people have to go back to their everyday lives, which Chen Si, as a patriot, basically sees as good. Quite unlike those he has saved, some of whom reproach him for not doing enough for them.

Such as, for example, the migrant worker Xue Fang, who along with her husband made and sold rice cake in a street food stand so as to pay for the education of their two sons. The couple was underway on a motor scooter without license plates to sell rice cakes in the city when a pursuing court vehicle got so close to them that they had a serious accident in which her husband immediately died. Ms. Fang, who now felt unable to bear the burden of life, soon found herself on the big bridge.

Further protagonists include the former farmer Zhang, who was cheated of his job and his back pay, and Mr. Shi, who had to borrow money to pay for the leukemia treatment of his daughter and, when the moneylender wanted to force him to pay the money back immediately, decided to solve the problem of his debts by jumping to his death.

Chen Si and those saved take the viewer on a journey through an overburdened society searching for its new identity amidst a rapid state of flux.