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Published on Sep 28, 2011
In recent years, Beijing has experienced explosive economic growth, which has led to a massive boom in population, construction projects unprecedented in scale... and, in turn, a tremendous swell in the amount of garbage the city produces. Photographer and director Wang Jiu-liang spent two years fearlessly documenting Beijing's unholy cycle of consumption and waste, traveling 15,000 kilometers around the outskirts of the city, visiting 500 landfills (not nearly all of them), and shooting 10,000 photographs and 60 hours of video. In Beijing Besieged by Waste, following on the heels of his eye-opening art exhibition, Wang assembles jaw-dropping photos, poignant observational visits with the scavengers who live and work in the dumps, and effective satellite maps into a sobering meditation on one of humanity's gravest issues.
Putrid rivers. Mounds of tar-black silt residue from sewage treatment plants. Sheep grazing on hills of trash, the sky behind them thick with new concrete high-rises and towering construction cranes. Wisely, Wang lets these haunting images speak for themselves, confident that the sight of such mountains of filth and waste will elicit shock and awe without cinematic embellishment. His quiet voice and gentle hand as a director only amplify the inflammatory nature of his topic. Few solutions are on offer, but merely exposing the horrors serves as a call to act before Beijing, then China, then the entire planet, is swallowed by garbage