Part of the remains of the Chinese city of Beichuan, two years after an earthquake that ripped it apart.
I was unlucky enough to be living in Tokyo when the 2011 Touhoku earthquake rocked Japan down to its physical and psychic roots. In that rich and well-prepared city, all we saw were a few fallen brick facades and a water shortage, but the experience was still enough to leave me deeply disturbed to this day.
It's hard for me to even imagine, then, how much more devastating it might have been to live through a severe earthquake amidst the slapdash construction of Beichuan, one of China's third-tier cities. That's what happened to the subjects of "Fallen City," a new documentary debuting under PBS' POV series on January 28th.
The documentarians could have taken a hard-nosed look at the structural corruption and economic inequality that no doubt contributed to the devastating effects of the 2008 earthquake, which was centered in Sichuan province and killed more than 69,000 people all told. Instead, director Qi Zhao chose to focus on the consequences for those left behind - the lives upended, the emotional turmoil of loss, all much harder to see than the shells of fallen buildings. By delving into the lives of a few of Beichuan's survivors, the documentary becomes far more compelling than even the most damning political inquiry.
Fallen City airs on WEDU-Ch. 3 at 10 p.m. on July 28, then again at 3 a.m. on Aug. 3rd. It will stream on POV’s website July 29-Aug. 28.