Beijing smog killing my creativity, Chen Kaige complains

‘CORNERED’::The film director and newly elected Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference member said smog had left him unable to focus

THE Guardian, LONDON

Tue, Mar 05, 2013 - Page 6

Some say success is the enemy of creativity, others have blamed “the pram in the hall,” but one of China’s best-known film directors has found a new culprit: smog.

“Cornered by the terrible weather, I have nowhere to go ... I am unable to focus on my artistic creation,” said Chen Kaige (陳凱歌), who won the Palme d’Or for his 1993 film Farewell, My Concubine (霸王別姬).

His comments reflect growing public concern about China’s environmental record, exacerbated by the severe air pollution in Beijing and other areas this winter, water pollution scandals and the government’s refusal to release research on soil pollution.

Chen, 61, described the weather as weird, appalling and unbelievable, Xinhua news agency reported.

He cited the death of a prized jujube tree two years ago as proof of Beijing’s deteriorating environment, asking: “If a tree dies like this, how can humans fare any better?”

He said the government should take action to shut down polluters, instead of trying to undo the damage already done.

Chen himself was criticized over environmental issues several years ago, when a watchdog in Yunnan Province said a lake had been damaged during the filming of his movie The Promise (無極).

Xinhua said Chen had been elected to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body, which began its annual session on Sunday and includes several celebrity members, such as actor Jackie Chan (成龍), Nobel literature laureate Mo Yan (莫言) and basketball star Yao Ming (姚明).

Its meeting runs alongside that of the National People’s Congress, the country’s largely rubber-stamp legislature.

On Saturday, the spokesman for the session said the official timetable for cities to meet national air quality standards was too long.

“Eighteen years is too long to wait,” Lyu Xinhua (呂新華) said. “We wish to shorten the period.”

In January, the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection said cities where average air pollution levels were 15 percent above the standard or less should meet the standard by 2015. The worst-hit cities, with pollution 30 percent or more above the national standard, should tackle the problem by 2030, it said.