In Jia Zhangke’s last feature film, A Touch of Sin, the director who spent his career defying China’s film censors, put a spotlight on the costs to society when those in charge are blinded by their pursuit of money — corruption, gun violence, factory worker suicides. And he did it with a style comparable to a Quentin Tarantino movie.
Now in Smog Stories, his latest short film, Jia sets his sights on an even bigger target: China’s worsening pollution problem. Exponential factory expansion and explosive growth in car ownership combined with lax environmental controls mean more than a quarter of a million people in some of China’s major cities could face premature death because of high levels of air pollution, according to projections by Peking University. Last month, Beijing’s mayor complained smog was making the capital unliveable.
Jia, who was born in a coal-mining town and whose father died of lung cancer, enlists his painter’s eye and his technique of blending documentary and feature filmmaking-style in this latest film for Greenpeace.