Unusually, agit-documentary director Nick Broomfield remains off-screen in his second ‘fictional’ feature. He subtly, sensitively recreates circumstances leading to the deaths of 23 Chinese cockle-gatherers on Morecambe Bay in 2004. The result isn’t wholly fiction or docu-drama. Instead, it’s a dramatic, damning snapshot of how the West exploits illegal immigrant workers and implicitly condones illegal practices. And it’s properly scary.
Young mother Ai Qin is its heart. Travelling from China to help her family, she winds up in an over-stuffed Suffolk house, where she’s put to back-breaking work for wages so shoddy that her life is beyond her control. The road to Morecambe Bay opens with tragic inevitability, but Broomfield pinpoints our consumer culpability en route. Extras-wise, the lengthy documentary nearly makes up for an otherwise threadbare DVD package. But Ghosts packs a personal and polemical punch; film-as-impassioned-reportage. Its aim is true.