Ghosts (2006 film)

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DVD cover
Directed by Nick Broomfield
Produced by Nick Broomfield
Jez Lewis
Written by Nick Broomfield
Jez Lewis
Starring Ai Qin Lin
Zhe Wei
Music by Harry Escott
Molly Nyman
Cinematography Mark Wolf
Edited by Peter Christelis
Distributed by Beyond Films
Release dates
  • 21 September 2006 (2006-09-21) (San Sebastián Film Festival)
  • 12 January 2007 (2007-01-12) (United Kingdom)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language Mandarin, Fuzhou dialect, English

Ghosts is a 2006 drama film directed by Nick Broomfield, based on the 2004 Morecambe Bay cockling disaster. The title is a reference to the Cantonese slang term Gweilo (鬼佬), meaning "ghost man", used for white people.


Ai Qin is an illegal Chinese immigrant to the United Kingdom. She is at home in Fuzhou, China, where there is no work except badly paid agricultural labour, and even this is in short supply. Ai Qin has a son but her husband is not seen (it is later revealed that he left her for another woman). The family have some awareness of the dangers of leaving for a foreign country, and can keep in touch using mobile phones, but overall they have no control once Ai Qin puts herself in the hands of a "snakehead" gang who, for a deposit of $5,000 (and the obligation to pay off the loan of another $20,000), will smuggle her to Europe.

The film follows her from China to the United Kingdom where she gets a job in a meat-packing factory. It reveals that the UK's food industry is heavily dependent on underpaid, exploited migrant labour. "Massage" (i.e. sex work) is offered as a profitable alternative, but she resists this. She finds herself dependent on a "gangmaster", who, however, is only one step up himself and needs to bribe richer contractors to get even badly paid work. His position and that of the group is deteriorating, and it is in some desperation that they turn to cockle-picking at Morecambe Bay.

The film begins and ends with scenes recreating the 2004 Morecambe Bay cockling disaster, in which 23 illegal workers lost their lives whilst cockle-picking.


Basis in fact[edit]

The 2004 Morecambe Bay cockling disaster involved 38 individuals, of whom 23 drowned. The gangmaster got 14 years' imprisonment. His girlfriend was found guilty of immigration offences. The film shows a much smaller group, so it is not a literal retelling.

External links[edit]