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Beijing smog stifles Oscar-nominated director in artistic creation

Updated: 2013-03-03 15:40

BEIJING - Besides posing health hazards, Beijing's notorious smog is taking its toll on people's spirits - at least according to a leading Chinese director.

"Cornered by the terrible weather, I have nowhere to go," said Chen Kaige, a frontrunner of Chinese cinema's "fifth generation" and a newly elected member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). "I am unable to focus on my artistic creation."

"I was born and bred in Beijing. I know what the weather was like in the old days," said 61-year-old Chen, describing the current air pollution as "weird," "appalling" and "unbelievable."

Smog has shrouded many parts of the country since the beginning of 2013. Beijing experienced only five days with clear skies in January, according to the Beijing municipal meteorological bureau.

Chen cited the death of a prized jujube tree two years ago as evidence of the worsening environment in Beijing.

"If a tree dies like this, how can humans fare any better?" he asked, recalling that the tree bore "egg-like, crispy and sweet fruits."

Chen vowed to raise more awareness on environmental pollution in his new CPPCC role as a political advisor.

Instead of tackling pollution after the damage is done, the government should take timely measures of shutting down heavy polluters, he said.

Chen's most famous film, Farewell My Concubine, which was nominated for two Oscars and won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, was released two decades ago.

Departing from his previous penchant for historical themes, however, Chen directed Caught in the Web in 2012, a film focusing on Internet and media abuse in modern-day China.

Asked about his change of pace, Chen said, "There are so many social problems. Don't they deserve our attention?"