Maverick photographer Wang Jiu-liang transfers his documentation of Beijing’s garbage dumps onto the bigscreen in the eye-opening and disturbing docu “Beijing Besieged by Waste.” Since 2008, the multihyphenate has been photographing how the Chinese capital is rapidly becoming surrounded by an enormous swath of unchecked landfills, making him deeply unpopular with the government. Though “Beijing Besieged” was screened at the underground Beijing Independent Film Fest, it can’t be shown commercially at home; international fests, streaming sites and private events will get Wang’s alarming message across.
Some 400-500 landfills now encircle China’s capital, and in three years, all existing legal dumps will be full. Beijing’s unchecked construction boom is partly to blame, along with relatively primitive waste collection, a culture of official unaccountability, and corruption. Wang visited hundreds of landfills recording the situation in all their stomach-churning details: sheep and cows grazing on rubbish heaps, roadsides littered with bags full of excrement dumped by long-distance buses, rivers of pungent black crud, and recycled swill oil (don’t ask). Wang’s narration is overly simple yet perhaps tailored to unsuspecting local crowds. Visuals aim for documentation more than artistry.