A herd of sheep grazes peacefully through the bucolic idylls of rural Mongolia. Suddenly on the horizon, ominous behemoths of twisted metal appear and begin to plunder the earth, pulverizing rocks, perspiring with mud, and puffing noxious clouds of sulfur into the air. At the turn of the century, China began work on an ambitious industrialisation project in a bid to accommodate its rapidly expanding population. Sixteen years on and in the wake of a devastating recession, hundreds of newly created cities, once imagined as bustling metropolises of industry and production are now nothing more than barren, desolate wastelands.
Lensed with a formalist beauty and shot over the course of two-years, Liang’s film carries a sense of righteous indignation and offers a lyrical examination of the dangers of relentless energy consumption in a world where the value of human lives is often discounted by a vast and callous industrial system.
"Remarkable, powerful ... Drawing as much on music and poetry as cinema, Behemoth works like a symphony." – Lee Marshall, Screen Daily
Fresh from sell out sessions at MIFF 2016, this visually striking documentary by artist and dissident filmmaker Zhao Liang (Petition) takes us to the ‘gui cheng’ or ‘ghost cities’ of rural Mongolia, where thousands of Chinese men and women die every year mining for materials in the coal and iron mines of the region.
Examining not only the rampant destruction of the earth but also its dehumanising effects on their penurious local and Chinese migrant workers, Zhao Liang transposes the allegory of Dante’s Divine Comedy onto these Mongolian mining sites, as we follow an unnamed coal miner serving as the film’s narrator and stand-in for the Roman poet Virgil, as he descends into these molten-infused, fiery depths of Hell.