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Watch: how smog affects a Beijing family

Jia Zhangke releases powerful film for Greenpeace

Still from Smog Journeys

Acclaimed Chinese director Jia Zhangke has released a short film commissioned by Greenpeace East Asia about the health effects of pollution on Chinese families. Smog Journeys, available online, follows two families – one a mining family in rural Hebei province and the other a middle class family in Beijing.

‘I wanted to make a film that enlightens people, not frightens them,’ Jia said in an interview with Greenpeace East Asia. ‘The issue of smog is something that all the citizens of the country need to face, understand, and solve in the upcoming few years.’

The film ‘challenges China’ to take action to solve the crisis, Greenpeace East Asia said. Data released by the organisation last week showed that over 90 percent of the 190 cities reporting pollution levels exceed China’s own yearly limit for the number of PM2.5 particles in the air – the World Health Organisation’s limit is lower.

‘I started noticing the smog issue back in the ’90s, but back then there was no such word as “smog”,’ Jia said. ‘I just felt that the air was really terrible, dust flying all over the place, making people’s everyday lives really inconvenient. Then I came to live in Beijing. Smog became an important issue in people’s lives here, especially in winter.’ Jia, born in the coal-rich province of Shanxi, lost his own father to lung cancer.

Jia is known for his empathetic films centred on the lives of everyday people in trying or extraordinary circumstances. His latest feature-length film A Touch of Sin won best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival, but has so far been blocked by authorities from entering Chinese cinemas.

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