David vs. Goliath, is part two of the three-part series "The Fate of Old Beijing: The Vanishing Hutongs."
In the face of China’s rapid modernization, the world’s most populous country is struggling to preserve its cultural heritage, and nowhere is this more visible than in the ancient alleyways and courtyards of Beijing.
Once a ubiquitous feature of Beijing, the hutongs are more than simply housing; they are actually a way of life. Entire families live in single, crowded courtyards, often with no bathrooms. Yet despite the lack of modern amenities, the communal aspect to life within the hutongs means that few want to leave – even as their neighbourhoods are being demolished and redeveloped. UNESCO estimates that more than 88 percent of the city’s old residential quarters are already gone, most torn down in the last three decades.
In a three-part series, filmmakers Jonah Kessel and Kit Gillet explore the vanishing world of Beijing’s hutongs, the realities of life within the narrow streets, and the future for these culturally-irreplaceable areas of China’s capital.
CHAPTER TWO: While hutong residents may not have the easiest lives, few want to leave the streets and alleyways they have long called home. However, with China’s current legal system offering few avenues of discourse it is hard for residents to save their homes after they have been slated for demolition. Some are torn down to make way for new subway lines but, increasingly, a large number are simply torn down to be replaced by large high rise buildings that primarily benefit the land developers and local officials.