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March 10–16, 2017

Chicago Premiere

(Bei xi mo shou)

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Film still: Behemoth Film still: Behemoth Film still: Behemoth
Golden Firebird Award
Hong Kong Intl
Film Fest
Green Drop Award
Golden Lion
Venice Film Fest
"Remarkable, powerful... a crisply-shot, aurally textured documentary that fully deserves to be seen on a big screen"
  —Screen International
5 stars "[A] masterly documentary... A fiercely lyrical approach to the subject of industrialisation in China"
  —The Guardian
"Stunningly lensed, cumulatively moving"
  —Chicago Tribune
Recommended "This is a beautiful film about ugly things, the sort of film you might feel guilty enjoying"
  —Chicago Reader
Recommended "[Director Zhao Liang's] images are freighted with beauty as well as the weight of despoliation, of man and landscape: the cumulative effect is harshly political, rising above simple despair"
  —NewCity Chicago

Behemoth is a portrait of modern-day China, a nation built mostly on the blood and sweat of poor laborers. Beginning with a mining explosion in Mongolia and ending in a ghost city west of Beijing, political documentarian Zhao Liang's visionary new film details, in one extraordinary sequence after another, the social and ecological devastation behind an economic miracle that may yet prove illusory.

In this visually striking documentary, dissident filmmaker Zhao Liang (Petition, Crime and Punishment) takes us into the coal and iron mines of rural Mongolia where he examines the rampant destruction of the earth and its dehumanizing effects on the penurious local and migrant workers. Transposing the allegory of Dante's Divine Comedy onto these mining sites, we follow an unnamed coal miner, who serves as narrator and stand-in for the Roman poet Virgil, leading us on a descent into this molten-infused, fiery chasms of Hell.

Behemoth is a lyrical examination of the dangers of relentless energy consumption in a world where the value human lives are discounted by a callous industrial system. By the film's searing ending, we are compelled to ask whether the destruction we have just witnessed in the name of progress serves any purpose at all.

Directed by Zhao Liang, China/France, 2015, 95 mins. In Chinese with English subtitles.


  • Fri., March 10 at 6:30 & 8:30 pm
  • Sat., March 11 at 5:30 & 7:30 pm
  • Sun., March 12 at 5:45 & 7:45 pm
  • Mon.–Thurs., March 13–16 at 6:30 & 8:30 pm
Buy tickets


$10 general admission

$5 for Facets Members

The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. Call the Cinémathèque Hotline at 773.281.4114 for the latest schedule, showtimes and updates.

For all Cinémathèque inquiries, contact Charles Coleman at 773.281.9075 or

  • John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Artworks: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
  • Comer Family Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Alphawood Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation