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Under the Dome

Investigating China’s Smog
2015 | 104 min | Recommended min. age: 16 y

“Under the Dome”, a documentary investigating pollution and air quality in China, drew hundreds of millions of viewers after it was posted online in one week before it has been pulled from Chinese video sites by the country’s government.

The environmental protection minister, Chen Jining, had said in a news conference as the film was launched: “I think this work has an important role in promoting public awareness of environmental health issues, so I’m particularly pleased about this event.” He compared it to “Silent Spring”, the film that kickstarted a backlash against pesticide use in the US.

Moreover the film’s director, journalist Chai Jing, had input from Jining’s ministry, with officials explaining how little leverage they have with public and private industry to enforce anti-pollution laws. Prior to the film’s release she sent this interview footage to other government teams, and began a dialogue with them.

Jing’s film, made after she became pregnant and feared for the health of her unborn child thanks to the levels of air pollution, shows how regulations over emissions are being steamrollered in China’s industrial expansion, with factories exceeding their limits. In the end she avoided direct criticism of the expansion itself, cutting a section that argued for policy changes.

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