On February 28 2015, former China Central Television anchor Chai Jing released a powerful, self-funded documentary about smog. The 104-minute video, “Under the Dome,” has swept the Chinese Internet in the last 48 hours. As of the time of this post, it has received over 60 million views on Tencent.
“Under the Dome” is presented in a style similar to a TED Talk, in which Chai addresses a live audience as a casual, engaging storyteller. In both the documentary and an interview with People’s Daily Online, Chai Jing mentioned that the project was inspired by the lung illness of her newborn daughter. The personal aspect of the film also helped it reach a wider audience.
The film was made after a year of investigation. It attempts to answer three simple questions: 1. What is smog? 2. Where does it come from? 3. What should we do about it? Using a variety of pictures, video footage, scientific data, and interviews with researchers and government officials, the documentary identifies the wide usage of fossil fuels and the lack of government oversight as the primary reasons behind the heavy smog in China. It calls for government action in regulating polluters and improving air quality.
“Under the Dome” is not Chai Jing’s first environmental project. Previously, her coverage of pollution caused by coal mining in Shanxi and “black lung disease” among coal miners helped her gain national recognition as an environmental advocate. Her new project, which combines a science lecture with animation, investigative reporting, and personal story-telling, also brings to mind Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
The film is co-released by Youku and People’s Daily Online. As the 2015 National People’s Congress is to be held this week on Thursday, the film is expected to inspire more debate over environmental policy. Yet, sources have suggested that a new propaganda directive has been issued to closely monitor and control the discussion surrounding “Under the Dome.”
Chai Jing explained in the film that its name was borrowed from a sci-fi novel by Stephen King. “Dome” is a metaphor for the smog that covers the sky in many Chinese cities.
The film has been partially translated by Jonathan Papish:
Another crowdsourced volunteer translation of the film is being organized by Chinese high school student Linghein Ho via YouTube: