Smog Town

Part of Take Your Positions! - Bertha DocHouse's pre-COP26 climate focus
Dir: Meng Han
China / South Korea / Netherlands / 2019 / 89mins

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Langfang, about 40 kilometers from Beijing, is one of the most air-polluted cities in China. But at the local environmental protection bureau, deputy chief Li and his assistant Hu are working hard to change this. There’s intense pressure from the leadership in Beijing, and far-reaching measures are needed to combat the fog laced with smoke and exhaust fumes that regularly blankets the city. The steel mill has to close down, teams of inspectors visit environmental offenders, and spray trucks attempt to curb the smog.

This observational bureaucratic drama highlights a situation that parallels the global environmental crisis: the urgency to tackle the problem is obvious, but who will pick up the tab? The Chinese government’s strict environmental policy, which includes imposing sanctions on the mayors who are responsible, puts the employees of the environmental protection bureau in a difficult position.