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 â€šÃ„Ã¬ 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.