A film by Zhao Liang
2015, 90 minutes
No. 053


Beginning with a mining explosion in Mongolia and ending in a ghost city west of Beijing, political documentarian Zhao Liang's extraordinary, visionary new film Behemoth details, in one breathtaking 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.

* Official Selection, Venice Film Festival
* Official Selection, Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival
* Official Selection, New Directors / New Films
* Official Selection, True / False Film Festival

Critics Pick! “A feat of pictorial storytelling… Like Hubert Sauper’s We Come as Friends and Michael Glawogger’s Workingman’s Death, the movie sees a perverse, almost science-fiction beauty in the ravages of destruction… Its haunting power grows in retrospect — as if you’ve returned from a journey and can’t believe what you’ve seen.” - The New York Times

"Colossal in scope... Punctuated with terrifying (albeit controlled) explosions, choking smoke storms, and impressionistic images of fractured landscapes, Behemoth seems to shudder with the destructive power of invisible, ubiquitous, and cruelly indifferent authority." - The New Yorker

"Behemoth is a powerful declaration of China's corrupt practices, and it's also Liang's masterpiece." - Vice

"Stunningly lensed, cumulatively moving. Unquestionably Zhao’s most accomplished film." - Variety

"Highly recommended. A powerful resource for individuals examining the price that human beings pay for industrialization and its negative effects on natural resources, ecology, and health." - Educational Media Reviews Online

"Four Stars! A beautiful and harrowing movie."-

"This is an eloquent visual commentary on the cost of China’s economic 'miracle.'" -Video Librarian

"In Behemoth, we see this master [Zhao Liang] at the top of his game. The result is an impressive film worthy of repeated viewings on a true large screen.... So haunting and poetic are Zhao's images that once seen, they are likely to lodge deep in the psyche of the viewer, to be later excavated and re-examined in dreams."
- CityLab (from The Atlantic)

"What this exceptionally lucid film reveals is what has to go on at ground level, and beneath the surface, in order to power a powerhouse." -
The Guardian

"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