ENVIRONMENT: Balancing conflicting political demands for clean air and water - and a thriving economy - in a one party state is not an easy task.
Nick Holdsworth
Journalist, writer, author, filmmaker and film and TV industry expert – Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.
Published date: May 2, 2020

There are hidden gems in this Chinese documentary filmed in one of the country’s most polluted cities, Langfang, just 40km outside the capital Beijing. They are buried deeply and sparsely as if to escape the censors, but they are there to be found by the attentive.

Domestic and industrial coal burning is strictly banned in Langfang, which suffers blinding days of smog as industrial pollution, chemical fumes and dust kicked up from scores of massive building sites combine with sluggish winds to concentrate choking layers of dangerous fog over the city.

Lead by a charismatic (and rather egotistic) department chief, Director Li – a published author and self-proclaimed environmentalist, whom children from a middle school dub as «Uncle Smog Buster» – Langfang’s air quality inspectors walk a delicate tightrope between closing down family firms and enforcing national regulations.

The rounds

Developed at top international film festivals including IDFA and Tokyo Docs and the recipient of former’s Bertha Fund and the Dutch NL Film Fonds, Smog Town is, I hesitate to say given the country in which it was made, a little smug.

It sticks closely to …


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