2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: PLASTIC CHINA

plastic chinaPLASTIC CHINA
Jiu-liang Wang explores the dead-end lives stuck in a Chinese plastic recycling factory.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Special Program:
The New Climate

Sundance Program Description:

Director Jiu-liang Wang captures the striking, melancholic beauty of a vast and lifeless artificial landscape – a Chinese countryside covered almost entirely in imported plastic. Men and women build lives upon this waste, and children learn about the outside world through tattered western advertisements and tabloid images. Yet even within such a profoundly isolating and toxic atmosphere, hope and humanity find their way into the defiantly optimistic 11-year-old Yi-Jie.

When she’s not building forts beneath massive plastic mounds, or constructing fake computers from magazine cutouts, Yi-Jie dreams of eating real fruits and raising healthy animals, as well as attending school and befriending kids her own age. Her father, an alcoholic, can’t afford to pay for her education. But she finds a kindred spirit in the young and optimistic Kun, the local recycling facility owner, who dreams, like she does, of one day escaping the plastic countryside and finding a better life. Whether they can break free or must simply make due with their harsh manufactured environment becomes the central tension within Wang’s poignant, exquisitely realized film.

Some Background:

  • Jiu-liang Wang
    Wang’s second doc continues themes from his debut, and is his first Sundance project. It debuted last Fall at IDFA, where it won a special jury prize.


  • Ruby Chen
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE CHINESE MAYOR (2015, World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize)

    Chen is a co-founder and COO of China’s CNEX.


  • Guan-ting Yue
    This marks the entrepreneur/investor’s first Sundance credit.

  • Jing Liu
    This is also the Oriental Companion Media exec’s first project at the festival.

Associate Producers:

  • Li-xin Fan
    Past Sundance docs:

    FALLEN CITY (2013, executive producer)
    CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT (2012, executive producer)
    LAST TRAIN HOME (2010, director)
    UP THE YANGTZE (2008, associate producer)

  • CNEX’s Leer Cheng, Oriental Companion Media’s Warren Chien, Wei Xiong
    This marks the remaining Associate Producer’s debut Sundance project.

Executive Producers:

  • Ben Tsiang
    Past Sundance docs:


    Tsiang is a co-founder and CEO for CNEX.

  • Jean Tsien
    Past Sundance docs:

    A PLACE AT THE TABLE (2012, editor)
    SOMETHING WITHIN ME (1993, editor, multiple Sundance award winner)

    Tsien is a well-regarded documentary editor, a role she serves for this project as well.

  • Chao-wei Chang
    Chang is a co-founder and chief producer for CNEX. This is his first Sundance credit.

  • Hsiao-ming Hsu
    This is also the first Sundance project for the Coolie Films exec, whose previous films have screened at Cannes, Berlin, Venice, and Locarno.


  • Jean Tsien
    See above.

  • Bob Lee
    This marks Lee’s first Sundance project.

Why You Should Watch:
Wang delicately balances the perspectives of Yi-Jie, her father, and Kun, alternating the child’s wonderment in and adaptability to her surroundings with the adults’ more grounded, and sad, apprehension of their present circumstances, revealing at the same time a sense of modern-day China coping with inequality in its rapidly developing economy. The film’s inclusion in this year’s environmentally-themed The New Climate underscores the global dimensions – and impact – of our disposable culture.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.


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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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