Ghosts is a shrewd name for this film, taking on various connotations as the film progresses, before eventually becoming an apt one, as you're left haunted by its events.
With his background in hard-hitting documentaries, it's no surprise that Nick Broomfield poses many uncomfortable questions and tackles similarly chunky issues which extend much farther than the core narrative with this superb film based on the deaths of the twenty-three Chinese cockle pickers at Morecambe Bay in 2004. The tragedy itself is almost of secondary concern, this is not an exploitation of that event, Broomfield instead chooses to focus on the events that placed the illegal immigrants in such a perilous position. It comes across as a film about modern-day Britain as much as anything.
The film's protagonist, Ai Qin Li, is a young impoverished Chinese mother hoping, like many, to make a better living in Britain, illegally. Broomfield holds no punches. While the film is seen from the perspective of the migrant workers, we are reminded how they unlawfully take jobs, often with the help of bungs and always with forged documents. While they are treated unpleasantly (at best) by British citizens in all respects, you can empathise with the local gang of cockle pickers who object to them threatening their livelihoods, even if it's impossible to approve of their brutish bullying. It is the violent attack in this particular scene that forces the Chinese to return to the deadly estuaries of Morecambe Bay after dark.
Broomfield doesn't paint a picture of black and white, right and wrong, but the name-checking of the major supermarkets alludes to the real villain, and the employment agencies who the workers sign up with are also portrayed as corrupt. For the most part it's perfectly judged by Broomfield, right up to the credits where he sends viewers on a guilt trip about how the British government has done nothing to pay off the heavy debts of the dead which their families are now burdened with. Leaving you wondering just why it is that Broomfield thinks it should. It's the kind of thing that might give Bono and Chris Martin bad ideas.
Overall for Broomfield the filmmaker, it's a major success, genuinely thought-provoking and memorable, and probably the best thing he's done to date by some distance. It's very much a dramatic piece but plays on his strengths as a documentary maker. On its own it would be an easy recommendion for your DVD collection, but the bonus Making Of documentary is also a valuable extra and the scene in which Broomfield and his crew are faced with a gang of hostile local cockle pickers while filming mirrors the events in the film.