The film opens on the morning of December 8th 2007, in Karamay's Xiaoxihu cemetery. Daybreak casts a cold grey light over faraway mountains and the Gobi sands. As the camera moves from grave to grave, it zeroes in on the photographs encased in glass on every tombstone. All are of children. Exactly 13 years ago, Karamay's Friendship Hall was the site of a horrible tragedy: nearly 800 grade and middle-school students and their teachers, hand-picked to entertain a delegation of education officials, were in the midst of a performance when a fire broke out in the hall. The students were instructed to remain in their seats so that the visiting executives could exit first. By the time the fire had been contained, 323 people had perished, 288 of them children between the ages of 6 and 14. All of the officials survived. After the tragedy, the story was heavily censored in the Chinese state media. To this day, the families of Karamay have not been allowed to publicly mourn their children.
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