“Striking and Powerful:” Beijing Besieged by Waste Reviewed

Beijing Besieged by Waste (dir. WANG Jiuliang)

Beijing Besieged by Waste (dir. WANG Jiuliang)

In the new issue of the journal Environment, Space, Place, Lorna Lueker Zukas of National University reviews Wang Jiuliang’s Beijing Besieged by Waste, a “striking and powerful film reveals that garbage caused by unfettered production for local and global marketplaces is creating enormous problems for China:”

Wang’s documentary uses familiar subjects, trash, reclamation, and recycling, to illustrate the problem of too much; too much garbage, too much growth, and too much consumption. Beijing is showcased as the “poster-city” for the global problem of waste, a problem recognized by the World Bank as potentially undermining future growth and development. Globally, waste volumes are rapidly increasing, outstripping the rate of urbanization; this growth is occurring fastest not only in China, but also in other parts of East Asia, parts of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Wang’s images force viewers’ attention to the physical environment, the realities of endless material production, and the reduction of people to disposable status. He asks viewers to think about the connection between production and destruction. Waste in China and elsewhere is primarily a by-product of consumer-based lifestyles that drive much of the world’s capitalist economies; it is the most obvious and noxious by-product of a capital-intensive, resource-extracting, labor-abusing, consumer-based economic lifestyle. Wang’s images remind us that trash is not just trash; it morphs into greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and air pollution that make people ill. Unenforced regulations in the trash industry also provide spaces and places for the exploitation and degradation of workers. Beijing Besieged by Waste helps viewers to appreciate, however momentarily, the global context of waste and its connections to economies and local and global pollution.

Beijing Besieged by Waste is part of the dGenerate Films collection.