Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Beijing Besieged by Waste Reviewed in Senses of Cinema

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

In the online journal Senses of Cinema, Christen Cornell reviews the environmental documentary Beijing Besieged by Waste (directed by Wang Jiuliang) which will screen this weekend at the Melbourne International Film Festival, as part of “Street Level Visions“, a series of contemporary Chinese independent documentaries.

Excerpts from Cornell’s review:

Like many of China’s independent documentary films, the making of Beijing Besieged by Waste was itself a form of political activism, and in a country where such research can be dangerous. Wang used satellite images from Google Earth to look for signs of landfill sites, racked up 17000 kilometres on his motorbike following garbage trucks around Beijing, and kept a deliberate low-profile throughout his investigations. With each new discovery, Wang added a yellow dot to his map of Beijing and, in the end, had identified more than 460 landfills and tips situated around the outskirts of the city – a rim of consumer refuse surrounding this glittering international metropolis like a scum ring in a bath. Wang also lived on and off with the communities he was documenting, learning about their lives at ground level, interviewing them, and capturing their relationships on film.

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A Review of Beijing Besieged By Waste, Screening Saturday at Asia Society

Friday, October 28th, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Police inspect illegal cooking oil, better known as 'drainage oil', seized during a crackdown in Beijing (Photo: AFP/GETTY)

Part of the documentary film series Visions of a New China at the Asia Society

Beijing Besieged by Waste
Dir. WANG Jiuliang
2011. China. 72 min. Digibeta. English subtitles.

October 29, 2011 – 3:00pm – 4:20pm
New York
725 Park Avenue, New York, NY
$7 members; $9 students/seniors; $11 nonmembers (Series discount available. Click on series link for more information.)

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Recycled cooking oil is known as “di gou you” or “gan shui you” in Mandarin Chinese and has been translated into “gutter oil”,”sewage oil”, or “drainage oil” in English. It first appeared in the Chinese vocabulary roughly a decade ago, when unlicensed production began to exist. This inferior form of cooking oil contains carcinogens such as aflatoxins; it is both unhygienic and unsafe for consumption.

China uses a massive amount of cooking oil every year. Although official statistics are unavailable on the website of the National Bureau of Statistics, 29.3 million tons of vegetable oil was forecast as the total amount of consumption for 2010 to 2011, an almost 9% increase from 26.85 million tons for 2009 to 2010, compared to 22.5 million tons for 2006 to 2007 (Agri Commodity Prices). In 2010, 15% of the total was estimated to go into waste (Xinhua). And out of that amount, 10 – 20% is said to be legally recycled and made into biofuel, while the remaining would likely end up in the hands of underground cooking oil recyclers, who would process it and then sell it back to Chinese restaurants (Telegraph). Because the net profit of such recycled cooking oil was nearly 200% of what it cost, it was an extremely lucrative business (Xinhua).

Concerned with the badly polluted city that he called home, Chinese freelance photojournalist and independent filmmaker Wang Jiuliang began an investigation of all of the landfill sites in Beijing in October 2008. His project lasted two years, during which time he also came into direct contact with some cooking oil recyclers on the outskirts of Beijing and captured them on camera. Responsibly speaking, Beijing’s pollution and its attendant problems were indeed bigger and deeper than they seemed. Now his documentary Beijing Besieged by Waste (2010) on the investigation has been completed. It was screened for the Foreign Correspondents Club in China on October 13, 2011 at the Embassy of Poland in Beijing. It was on the China Next (CNEX) Campus Tour in Canada last month. It screened once at Beijing’s art house movie theater, Broadway Cinematheque MOMA (BC MOMA). And as of right now, it is playing at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (Oct 13-22).

Below are some of my thoughts on the film and information that I have gathered about it.

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Chinese Students Produce Environmental Short Films

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

The Environment & Human Short Documentary Project is part of a national green project called “Qing Guo Qing Cheng Huan Jing Xin Guan Cha [Green Country Green City Environmental and Spiritual Observation].” The Project is organized and co-sponsored by the Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology (SEE) Foundation, Beijing Indie Workshop (founded in 2005 by Zhang Xianmin), and the Tencent Company for Public Welfare in China this year. College students from roughly 200 Chinese colleges and universities were encouraged to participate in the project by submitting documentary proposals that investigate current environmental problems and seek innovative resolutions to them. Of the proposals, 20 were selected as finalists. These students were given free training in video filmmaking as well as a small fund to complete their documentaries. Seven documentaries were given special mention by the event organizers. Below is a list of four that received a special public screening at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) on November 9, 2010 in Beijing.

“The Summer of Nima” by JIANG Hua
(video available at sina.com)
Nima lives with his family deep in the mountains of Shangri-la in Yunnan. For centuries, they have been doing the family timber business. On one summer day, a group of outsiders entered their life, and nothing has been the same since then.

“River Keeper” by ZHONG Yanshan
Two homeless young men make a living by scavenging along the Xi’an Moat. Their life is full of plight and struggles.

“Complete Eggs” by CHEN Liang
(video available at sina.com)
In the Erguna River Valley in Inner Mongolia, villagers have a tradition of picking up fresh eggs laid by wild birds, but this is having a huge negative impact on the environment.

“Trash Demonstration Village” by ZHANG Hao
Many villagers living next to a huge hazardous landfill site in Heilongjiang are unhappy about their situation, but what can they do?