This April in Boston, Crows & Sparrows is pleased to co-present Beijing-based filmmaker Zhao Liang‘s BEHEMOTH with documentary screening series The DocYard. The screening is co-sponsored by the Harvard-China Project on Energy, Economy and Environment and the Environment in Asia Series, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.
BEHEMOTH had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 2015. The film has gone on to gain international attention at festivals including IDFA, CPH:DOX, and New Directors/New Films, and it has won the Award for Best Documentary at the Stockholm Film Festival and the Golden Firebird Award at the 2016 Hong Kong International Film Festival.
This will be the film’s area premiere in Boston.
Monday, April 24 at 7pm at the Brattle Theatre
Directed by Zhao Liang
90 minutes, 2015, China/France, DCP
Director Zhao Liang will attend via Skype for discussion with Crows & Sparrows curator Gen Carmel. The discussion will be interpreted by Canaan Morse, a translator, poet and Ph.D. candidate in Chinese Literature at Harvard. He holds an M.A. in Classical Chinese Literature from the Chinese Language and Literature Department at Peking University.
Beginning with a mining explosion in Inner Mongolia and ending in a ghost city west of Beijing, political documentarian Zhao Liang’s visionary new film Behemoth details, in one breath taking sequence after another, the social and environmental devastation behind an economic miracle that may yet prove illusory.
Drawing inspiration from The Divine Comedy, Zhao offers intoxicating and terrifying images of the ravages wrought by his country’s coal and iron industries on both the land and its people. Beautiful grasslands covered in soot and dust. Mountains shredded in half. Herdsmen and their families forced to leave their lands, to escape poisonous air. Miners descending deeper into pitch black mine shafts. Scorching ironworks that resemble hellish infernos. And in hospitals, ill-equipped to handle the deluge, workers suffering critical illnesses.
Building upon his previous acclaimed exposés (2009’s PETITION, 2007’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT), Zhao combines muck-racking journalistic techniques with stunning visuals to capture an unfolding nightmare. It’s a film replete with haunting imagery. But none more so than Zhao’s tour through a barren metropolis, a gleaming, newly constructed city, intended as a workers’ paradise, that now stands empty, desolate of life; waiting, perhaps, for that economic miracle.
“A powerful testament to the human and environmental costs of coal mining and consumption in China, the world’s biggest user of coal and the leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal.” – The New York Times
“A remarkable, powerful film. Visually, this breathtaking film reminds us, at times, of Sebastiao Salgado’s photographs of Brazilian miners; cinematic echoes include Michael Glawogger’s Workingman’s Death and, to a lesser extent, the doom-laden environmental sweep of Godfrey Regio’s Qatsi trilogy.” – Screen
About the Filmmaker:
Born in Northeastern China (Dandong, Liaoning Province), ZHAO Liang graduated from Luxun Academy of Fine Arts in 1992. Based in Beijing since 1993, Zhao has been working as an independent documentary filmmaker as well as a multimedia artist in photography and video art. His works have been exhibited in the International Center of Photography (New York), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), Museo Reina So a (Madrid) and numerous other art galleries and museums around the world.
With his unique vision and acute reflections on social issues and conditions, Zhao has been extending the frontiers of documentary filmmaking in China today. His award-winning CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (Best Film – Festival des 3 Continents – Nantes, France; also screened in Locarno) was an eye-opening exploration of military law enforcement in China. His PETITION (aka The Court of the Complaints) followed a group of disgruntled citizens from 1996 to 2008, and was screened at the Cannes Film Festival (Special Screenings). The film has won several awards at festivals, including Hong Kong, DocLisboa, Hawaii, DocNZ Auckland and Tiburon. His documentary TOGETHER revealed the situation of HIV and AIDS in China, and was screened at the Berlinale Panorama.