Wang Jiuliang, Plastic China, 2016 (still)

Classes, Film, Free, Talks

Plastic China

Thursday, Jan 10, 2019

6 p.m. | 82 min

Phyllis Wattis Theater, Floor 1

This event is at capacity. Rush tickets may be available 30 minutes prior to the lecture on a first-come, first-served basis.

Join us for a talk before the screening as part of SFMOMA 101: China, Film, and Society. Leading local voices address the global Chinese diaspora’s artistic and cultural impact on the everyday lives of its more than sixty million people. Each talk in this thought-provoking series will include an introduction by a curator from Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World, followed by a screening from the documentary film series Turn It On: China on Film, 2000–2017. Today’s talk features Stephen Gong, Executive Director, Center for Asian American Media, with an introduction by Rudolf Frieling, curator of media arts.

This film documents a plastic recycling facility in a small town dedicated to the business of processing plastic waste. The facility is operated by two families: the family of the owner and a family of employees. Eleven-year-old Yi-Jie works alongside her parents while dreaming of attending school. Kun, the facility’s ambitious foreman, hopes for a better life. Plastic China examines global consumption and culture through the eyes and hands of those who handle its refuse.

Beyond its basic meaning as a noun, my film emphasizes the word plastic as a verb, meaning “to shape,” just as the universal worship of material wealth in contemporary society shapes the factory, and just as the difficult circumstances facing worker parents shape their children. As these travesties and weaknesses are revealed, the superficial splendor of China emerges as cheap and fake.

–Wang Jiuliang, director

Plastic China reflects the harsh reality of the nation’s economic development through the conditions of two families at a waste recycling facility; the great material, physical, and psychological price they pay their aspirations toward wealth; and their complete disregard for individual quality of life.

–Ai Weiwei

As contemporary China has become the world’s factory, it has also become its waste dump. Products made with cheap labor are sent around the world, but the waste remains in China. Though the workers are able to subsist on razor-thin profits, they also must endure severe environmental pollution. All workers’ family members devote their lives to this crude link in the economic chain. The children pull enticing advertisements, toys, and everyday items from the trash to build their secondhand lives. Whether presenting four years of unrealized schooling plans or a birth in a cornfield, the camera captures tragedy at every turn.

–Wang Fen


6 p.m. Introduction and Talk

7 p.m. Screening

Film Details

Language: Mandarin with English subtitles

Year: 2016

Running time: 82 min

Director: Wang Jiuliang 王久良

Films and schedules may be subject to change.