Seven reasons why China is so disaster-prone

The clean-up opertion after last month's chemical blasts in Tianjin. Image: Getty.

“Not again,” I thought as I read the initial reports of the explosions that shook the eastern fringes of Tianjin on August 12th. Images and videos of 20 storey-high fireballs, burnt-out cars, and a landscape that appeared to have been ravaged by war were aired on media networks across the world. A warehouse storing thousands of tons of hazardous chemicals ignited, resulting in multiple blasts which measured on the Richter scale and could be seen from space. Over 100 people were killed, 700 more were injured, upwards of 6,000 people were forced from their homes, and the local environment was devastated.

In the wake of this disaster there was mass public outcry and the government vowed action, including a new "zero tolerance” policy for safety violations. But before the blazes in Tianjin could even be quelled, another chemical plant in Shandong Province exploded. Then a week later, another.

Industrial and civil engineering accidents occur almost daily in China. On the same day as the Tianjin explosion, a landslide buried a mining camp in Shaanxi Province, killing seven and leaving 57 missing. The day before, a gas explosion in a coal mine in Guizhou Province killed 13 people. The day before that, a fertiliser plant in Sichuan Province sprung a leak, exposing entire neighborhoods to toxic liquid ammonia gas, resulting in no less than 10,000 people being evacuated.

Last month, six people were killed when a bathhouse collapsed in Tianjin and twelve died when a shoe factory crumbled in Zhejiang Province. In May, a leak at a chemical factory in Shanxi Province killed eight. In April, a PX chemical plant in Zhangzhou that was recently lauded by the government as a “model of good mass work” exploded, causing the relocation of 29,000 people. Last year, an auto parts factory ignited in Kunshan, killing more than 75 people and seriously injuring 186 others. In 2013, a poultry plant in Jilin went up in flames, killing 121. At least twenty bridges have collapsed across China since 2007.

Such catastrophes are an ever present reality in China, but why?

1. Too much, too quickly

After the tragic crash of two high speed trains in Wenzhou in 2011, the hazards of China’s rapid pace of development were thrust into public view. In the aftermath, Qiu Qiming, an anchor for CCTV, China’s national news network, even deviated from his script to exclaim: "Can we drink a glass of safe milk? Can we live in apartments that do not fall down? Can the roads we drive on in our cities not collapse? Can we afford the people a basic sense of security? China, please slow down. If you keep going so fast, you may leave the souls of your people behind."

Over four years later, China is still speeding down the same track, leaving flaming factories, collapsing bridges, and exploding warehouses in its wake.

A collapsed bridge in Houxing. Image: author's own. 

China has urbanised faster than any other country, ever. 600 new cities have popped up across the country since 1949, and many more are on the way. Every five days, a new skyscraper is topped off. A 16,000 km (and growing) high-speed rail network blanketed the country in a little over a decade. In just nine years the length of its highway network was expanded two and a half times, making it the most extensive in the world. Each year 2,000 sq km of floor space, nearly enough to cover Hong Kong twice, is being built.

To get a picture of the speed and scale at which China can build you don’t need to look any further than the Zhengdong New District in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province. In just five years, over 100 sq km of land was cleared out and prepped for construction, a central business district with 86 skyscrapers was built, and a new university zone that would eventually bring in 240,000 students and staff was created.

“The speed of construction means that shortcuts get taken,” says Austin Williams, an architecture professor at Liverpool-Jiaotong University in Suzhou. The breakneck pace of construction means large projects are rushed into developments, while proper safety protocols are ovelrooked in order to meet targets and deadlines. 

“The key issue is that workplace safety, building and production integrity are not given the same priority as economic growth and the pursuit of profit,” says Geoff Crothall of China Labor Bulletin, a Hong Kong based NGO that promotes the rights of workers in China. “As a result, China's economic miracle has come at a cost of millions of workers' lives and untold environmental destruction.”

The Binhai New Area in Tianjin, where the explosions occurred, has undergone rapid development over the past couple of decades. There are new housing projects, new industrial parks and technology zones, the largest port in the north of China, and even entire new cities — such as Yujiapu, China’s “Manhattan replica,” and the Sino-Singapore Ecocity, which lies just to the north of the blast site. Just a generation ago this was an area of mudflats and fishing villages, but now it is home to some of the most prominent emerging development areas in the country. This backdrop of frenzied activity makes the number of accidents look a little less surprising. 

2. Corruption

On 18 April 2007, 32 workers were boiled beyond recognition when a ladle holding 30 tons of molten steel separated from its supports and spilled upon them in a steel plant in Liaoning Province. The causes? The improper use of the wrong equipment, lax safety oversight, and substandard work areas that did not meet legal requirements.

Ultimately, it is not the Chinese legal system that is to blame for the country's many civil engineering and industrial accidents. On the books, China’s laws provide adequate safety measures for workers, and construction projects are generally held to international standards of quality. The problem comes in enforcement.

“In terms of legal enforcement, local governments often do not have the ability or the will to enforce existing legislation and collusion with business owners to circumvent the law is widespread. In many cases, local government officials or their family members will be the indirect owners of businesses where workplace accidents occur,” Geoff Crothall explains.

The government and many of the companies which industrial and infrastructural accidents through lax safety protocols are often connected in some way. The owners of the company that operated the warehouses that exploded in Tianjin were a former executive at Sinochem, which until 2009 was wholly owned by the Chinese government, and the son of the former police chief of Tianjin Port — very well connected individuals who were able to use their influence to subvert safety regulations, which increased the scale of the tragedy and may have lead to needless deaths and pollution.

“I used to score road conditions and I once gave a very low score for one road that was very bad,” a former civil engineer named Oliver Chen explains. “The next time I went back there the road maintenance committee tried to give me a present. They had a big package of something and a hong bao (a red envelope that is often used for giving bribes). I refused to take it. They said, ‘Why not? I give to your boss, I give to your colleagues, why won’t you take it?’ It is my name that is on the paper, so if something goes wrong it is my problem. They then knew that I wasn’t one of them.”

The Tianjin explosions originated from a fire in a warehouse of Rui Hai International Logistics, where over 40 types of hazardous chemicals, amounting to around 3,000 tons, were stored. This was reported to include several hundred tons of sodium cynaide, a substance that becomes highly combustible on contact with water, when the warehouse was only approved to handle ten tons at a time. In addition to this, hazardous sites must be located at least 3,200 feet away from residential and commercial ares in China, but Vanke Port City, an apartment complex which was severely damaged by the explosions, was built a mere 2,000 feet away. Clearly, violations of current Chinese law were occurring in the face of, and perhaps in collusion with, regulatory authorities.

3. Social patterns

Deeply embedded social patterns, partly based on the old communist work structure, can also lead to compromised safety practices. Sites operate strict hierarchies, in which superiors cannot be questioned, and so dangerous working plans and badly worked out ideas are followed blindly. Workers do not want to stand out, and the disinclination to point out mistakes of coworkers and superiors to allow them to “save face” can lead to small issues growing into larger ones. Meanwhile, a typically segmented delegation of responsibility can lead to a lack of accountability when things go wrong, as errors are easily dismissed as someone else’s problem.

“When something happens everybody stands around scratching their heads and blaming somebody else,” explains Alex Papp, an Australian business owner who has set up factories in China. “So I have to train my workers that it’s their duty [to report irregularities] because you’re saving your own life, not just other people’s lives. If you notice something or smell something that’s not right or hear something strange you must report it.” 

4. A matter of scale?

Construction in Binhai, near the site of the Tianjin explosion. Photo: author's own.

China is the world’s most populated country as well as its leading manufacturer. Add to this the fact that China is engaged in excessive amounts of truly large scale construction projects which, logically, have an increased potential for worker safety issues, and the country is well-positioned for leading the world in workplace accidents as well.

However, context doesn’t completely explain away what we’re seeing here. Nearly 70,000 people died in work related accidents in China last year, as opposed to less than 5,000 in the USA, the world’s second largest manufacturer. Even with population size taken into account, China’s on-the-job death rate is still 21 times greater than that of the UK. 

5. China is taking on the world’s dirty work

“It is important to note that it took a long time — well over 100 years — for developed economies to really recognize the importance of workplace safety,” Geoff Crothall says, “and by that time globalisation meant that most of the high risk and dangerous jobs could be done by workers in developing countries like China.”

Adding to the higher rate of workplace accidents is the type of work carried out in China, as well as the materials and substances manufactured and used. China isn’t only willing to produce massive amounts of electronics, cars, textiles, and cheap plastic junk, but also hazardous materials, toxic chemicals, and other products that can be volatile to manufacture. Many Western countries have lowered their risks of industrial accidents precisely because an increasing amount of potentially pernicious products are now made in China. China has taken on a large part of the world’s dirty work.

6. Blighted avenues for change

Compounding the problems of improving workplace safety in China is the fact that there really isn’t any system in place for workers to push for change or have any kind of dialogue with decision makers. China has just one trade union, and it’s run by the government.“There is no social dynamism for workers to take initiative or to remedy problems,” Austin Williams points out.

Part of the reason why working conditions improved in the West down to the formation of very powerful unions that could push for safer workplaces and polices that could further distance workers from unnecessary risks.

7. The downside of development

“Since we casually talk about China's development catching up with the West, we must also expect a Three-Mile Island and a Flixborough-style disaster once in a while. Tragic, but brutally true,” Austin Williams says. “However, China needs to make sure that, like those terrible Western precursors, it learns lessons of regulatory openness and accountability, not simply legal and political retribution.”

Industrialisation in the West produced many environmental and public safety disasters. Many swathes of the United States were rendered wastelands. Rivers like the Cuyahoga, Chicago, and Buffalo were once so packed with pollutants they were flammable — all three ignited multiple times. China’s profusion of “cancer villages” had their predecessors at Love Canal in Niagara Falls and Times Beach in St. Louis.

However, countries like the UK and the United States had the political agility and power to create and enforce policy to change this situation in the wake of these catastrophes. Government leaders didn’t just give lip service to quell public outrage and punish a few well-targeted executives, but actually got to the root of the issue: they imposed regulations on the companies that were polluting and made them follow them.

The future?

The compounded effect of all of these tragedies is having a major impact on how the people of China view their government, and in the court of public opinion these accidents have passed the breaking point of acceptability. With each new disaster the people of China become united on social media, venting anger that’s generally directed towards a single source: the people who run the country. China is no longer a fledgling developing nation required to make massive sacrifices as it struggles to catch up with the West; no, it is now a well-established global economic, political, and technological leader, and its people are now demanding that it act as such.

Each major accident in China brings talk of the big changes that it will provoke and the profound lessons it taught. The people say enough is enough, the government officials say enough is enough, regulations are raised, punishments are dolled out, and systematic nationwide safety reviews are initiated. It always seems as if the deadly incident that had just occurred will be heinous enough to fundamentally change the public safety situation moving forward, and fires, toxic leaks, collapsing infrastructure, and mass evacuations will no longer be daily headlines. It always seems as if China can no longer afford take life so cheaply... and then something else explodes. 

 
 
 
 

In search of the UK’s great “city films”: the South, East Anglia and the Midlands

Beachy Head, East Sussex. Image: Wikipedia via Creative Commons.

Earlier this year, in the first blog in this series, I looked at the best city films set in London. Here the search extends outwards – to the urban metropolites of the South, East Anglia and the Midlands. The focus is on films with some combination of local stories, connections and shooting locations.

That first blog outlines the selection method in detail. If you haven’t time to read it, the key things to know are that films must have received a total IMDb score of at least 6.5 from at least 100 votes – if a film is missing from the list it is probably because it does not meet those criteria.

South East

Described by the Guardian as “one of the finest post-war British crime movies and possibly the best depiction of the seaside town on film”, Jigsaw (1962) is about a murder investigation set in and around Brighton. The producers made the film in partnership with the local police and there is extensive footage of Brighton and its surrounds. Despite similarities with the real-life Brighton Trunk Murders of the 1930s, the plot was based on a 1959 American novel.

Brighton is again the location for Smokescreen (1964), yet this time insurance fraud is the crime. In addition to scenes at locations around the city and neighbouring Hove, the rest of the filming was at Brighton Film Studios, which operated between 1949 and 1966 and was the the last of four main film studios in the area. Its closure marked the end of an era, since as early as “1912, when Hollywood was just beginning, film companies in Brighton had already produced hundreds of comedies, dramas and documentaries”.

The Chalk Garden (1964) is based on a play of the same name by Enid Bagnold and, although not a period piece, inspired by Bagnold's own inter-war life at North End House in the village of Rottingdean that borders Brighton immediately to the east. Bagnold (a remarkable woman) lived a well-healed existence and the servants – notably the governess – figure prominently in the tale. Brighton features in the film – including a scene in Preston Park that recruited background players from the Preston Lawn Tennis Club.

The storylines of a couple of 1960s Oxford films centre on that city’s ancient university. The Mind Benders (1963) is a spy thriller involving brainwashing science, while Accident (1967) is about professorial-student relationships. Accident is based on a novel of the same title by Oxford-educated Nicholas Mosley (the eldest son of Sir Oswald). Both films have numerous shots of the university; we’re talking “The Full Morse” here.

A good deal of Quadrophenia (1979) is set either in London or between London and Brighton, but it does also feature the latter’s famous seafront and beach. The film, which is about a young working-class Mod in the mid-1960s, recreates the fights between gangs of Mods and Rockers that marred Brighton and other south-coast towns over holiday weekends during the Sixties.

Fast-forward two decades and Down Terrace (2009), a “Sopranos on Sea”-type dark comedy, is Brighton to its fingertips. It has a handful of local scenes but is more a house-based play than movie. Directed and co-written by Brighton resident Ben Wheatley, it is named after the street in which it was filmed. The other co-writer, who also has a lead role, is Rob Hill, who met Wheatley at the University of Brighton. The house in which most of the filming took place was Hill’s own home in Down Terrace and Hill’s character’s father is played by his real-life father – also a Brighton resident. Wheatley and Hill self-funded the film and did interviews with “local drug dealers and ne’er-do-wells” for the initial script. Several tracks come from local folk singers, The Copper Family. I loved it (as did the British Independent Film awards).


Emulsion (2014), a slick and clever film about a man’s search for his “missing wife”, is a Bournemouth film. Writer-director Suki Singh is a graduate of Bournemouth University’s Film School and still based locally. Despite the town council’s car park featuring heavily a good number of locations in Bournemouth and Poole are shown, including cafes, a local country house, department store, major hotel, police station, converted art deco cinema and Alum Chine suspension bridge. The film’s premiere came through a local Indie Screen scheme whereby Poole’s Lighthouse cinema guaranteed to screen good local indie films. The production company is locally based and, in addition to film-making (e.g. Bournemouth-shot feature, K-Shop), plays a key educational and networking role in the city’s film community. Even the score was by a (London-based) Bournemouth University graduate.

20,000 Days on Earth (2014) charts 24 hours in the life of Australian- born, Brighton-based singer Nick Cave. It is a curio in that, while the person is real, the day is artificial – made up of arranged but unscripted encounters with famous faces from 20,000 days-old Cave’s life. Many of the encounters take place in a car as Cave drives around the city, mostly away from the town centre and seafront. The film has been called “a great Brighton film, giving a neon noir sheen to Cave’s adopted hometown” and “as much of a love letter to the seaside city as it is to the man that inhabits it”. So, let’s include it.

South West

The film world owes a debt to the city of Bristol in that it gave the world one Archibald Alec Leach – better known by his screen name: Cary Grant. The Bristolian usually vies with the likes of Brando and Bogart for the mantle of greatest male lead in movie history. His upbringing in (and later ties with) Bristol is well captured in last year’s excellent documentary, Becoming Cary Grant.

Grant has long held a fascination for playwright Peter Nichols who, like the film star, grew up in north Bristol. Nichols converted one of his early plays into a challenging and amusing film of the same name, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972). Nichols was rooted in the city, having been born there, educated at Bristol Grammar School, studied acting at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and had his first play staged at the Little Theatre (now part of Colston Hall). The play/film, based on Nichols' own experiences, is about how the burden of raising a very handicapped child can damage a marriage. The male lead is a teacher – just as Nichols had been. Funds to write the play came when legendary director-to-be John Boorman, then working at BBC Bristol, persuaded Nichols to write a screenplay for him – one that went on to make money. There are at least a handful of external shots filmed in the city although it remains more play than movie and you only hear a Bristol accent once – a funny department store scene.

Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), which was also shot in London, and Paper Mask (1990) both show Bristol locations albeit without any great local rootedness. Starter for 10 (2006) is about student life and a University Challenge quiz team at the University of Bristol yet, despite a few good Bristol shots, most of the university scenes were filmed at UCL and the University of Greenwich.

East Anglia

Ipswich has The Angry Silence (1960), a film about strike-breaking and, seen more broadly, an individual opposing a group. It was shot mainly in and around a big local factory (operational as recently as 2005), neighbouring streets and a local primary school. Extras comprised of both local amateurs and many factory staff, one of whom lent their battered (ie realistic) overalls to one of the film’s stars. The lead actor, Richard Attenborough, even visited the factory beforehand to learn to use the machine he worked on in the film, and later hosted a private showing for local extras at the old Ritz Cinema in the Buttermarket. The film still holds up almost sixty years on, yet not everyone took civic pride in it – Ipswich Trades Council voted to boycott it. 

Following a successful online campaign named “Anglia Square not Leicester Square”, the world premiere of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) was held in Norwich’s Hollywood Cinema, with Steve Coogan appearing in character as North Norfolk Digital radio station’s own Alan Partridge. Coogan/Partridge greeted fans before being helicoptered to the London premier in Leicester Square! The film has some good shots of Norwich, although many scenes were also filmed on the Norfolk coast, at Sheringham and Cromer beaches, and around London.


Originally created as the master’s project of Norwich-born, -raised and -based director, Kris Smith, who was at the time studying film at Norwich University College of the Arts, I’m Still Here (2013) focuses on a young guy diagnosed with a terminal illness and draws on Smith’s own experience of a loved one in this situation. Smith, who both wrote and directed the film, worked with three locally based actor-filmmakers, and the soundtrack includes local band National Image and locally-based rap artist C.O.L.L. The main shots of the city are at the beginning – including a trip to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital (yet when a neighbour later drops him at “the hospital” the entrance shown is St George's in south London’s Tooting!). The premier took place at The Curve Auditorium, in Norwich’s Forum complex.

The short story that inspired the multi-award winning 45 Years (2015), which tells the tale of a retired couple, may have been set in north Wales, but the resultant film was indeed set in Norfolk. It includes a handful of scenes featuring popular Norwich locations and the nearby Norfolk Broads receive a nice profile too. The director, Andrew Haigh, has revealed that a lot of the scenes in Norwich featured genuine passers-by – lead actress Charlotte Rampling “would walk around the city and nobody even looked at her. We had the camera hidden in a van to film some of the scenes, so people wouldn’t see us”. Haigh knew the city well as he was living there at the time of filming while his partner was doing an MA in creative writing at University of East Anglia.

Blinded by the Light, at a cinema near you from 2019, is Gurinder Chadha’s film about the true story of a Bruce Springsteen-mad British Muslim growing up in Luton during the 1980s. The film is based on journalist Sarfraz Manzoor’s 2007 memoir, Greetings from Bury Park. Exact shooting locations are unclear although Manzoor, who is a co-producer and co-wrote the script, has said that “there have been moments on set when I could not stop smiling at the sight of a feature film crew in the middle of Luton”.

East Midlands

Nottingham is the focus of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), of which the screenplay, about a womanising hard-drinking young factory worker, was adapted by Alan Sillitoe, who was born and raised in the city, from his novel of the same name. The film’s anti-hero works in Raleigh bicycle factory – as Sillitoe himself had when it had been a wartime munition factory. The author’s family home was a main location for the film and his brother had a bit part. Numerous other city locations appear – from the castle to cinemas and pubs (including The White Horse – the setting for the short story that later became the novel). Although the closing scene was shot overlooking a Wembley housebuilding site, a Nottingham firm supplied one of its signs to bring “authenticity”. Not all locals welcomed the film: the then-Tory MP for Nottingham Central denounced it as a “foul libel on the respectful, clean living people of Nottingham”. The work was however deemed the 14th greatest British film in a 1999 BFI survey.

Shane Meadows, who moved to Nottingham from the eastern-most part of the West Midlands when he was 20, has shot several good films in and around his adopted home city. His first feature, TwentyFourSeven (1997), about a youth boxing club, was filmed in Nottingham suburbs and exurbs. A Room for Romeo Brass (1999), about two 12-year-old friends, was shot in Calverton – just outside the city. The relationship between the two boys is semi-autobiographical and based on the childhood relationship between Meadows and co-writer Paul Fraser. Much of Meadows’s This is England (2006), about skinhead youth in the early 1980s, was shot in residential areas of Nottingham. Meadows has used professional actors but has also drawn on local talent – notably from the Television Workshop in Nottingham – for key roles. The Workshop, now a charity, was originally set up by Central Independent Television in 1983 to act as a casting pool for young talent in their Midlands broadcasting region.

Leicester gets a look in with The Girl with Brains in Her Feet (1997), a coming-of-age tale, set in 1972, about a talented, mixed-race 13-year-old athlete at a school on the outskirts of Leicester. The screenplay was written by the late Jo Hodges who, back in 1972, had been a sporty, mixed-race 13-year-old at a school on the outskirts of …. you guessed it, Leicester.

Although it didn’t include lots of Northampton scenes, Kinky Boots (2005) is based on the true story of one of the area’s shoe-making companies managing to stave off closure through switching to producing women’s boots that were large and strong enough for drag queens and male fetish footwear lovers. The company was based a few miles outside Northampton although most of the internal factory scenes were shot at the Tricker’s shoe factory in Northampton itself.

The Unloved (2009) gives a child's eye view of the UK’s government-run care system for orphans and children in danger. Filmed entirely in Nottingham, it offers a handful of shots of the city and is a semi-autobiographical account of the upbringing of the film’s director, Nottingham-born-and-raised Samantha Morton (who has twice been nominated for acting Oscars). The film also gave leading roles to two actresses – Lauren Socha and Molly Windsor – who had attended the Television Workshop.

Oranges and Sunshine (2011) depicts the true story of Margaret Humphreys, a social worker from Nottingham who, in the 1980s, uncovered the horrifying and thankfully discontinued practice of Home Children; the forcible relocation, by misguided charities, of children in care from the United Kingdom to Australia and other parts of the Commonwealth. Humphreys reunited some of the children involved – now adults living mostly in Australia – with their parents in Britain and was awarded a CBE in 2011 for her work. Several Nottingham locations were used in the film although shooting also took place in Australia. The two main young actresses were Television Workshop alumni.

Nottingham was also the location for the Weekend (2011), which was named in 2016 by a BFI survey as the second best LGBT film of all time (Carol took first place, since you ask). The plot centres upon a casual encounter that shows signs of developing. The only real connection to the area, aside from locations including the Goose Fair, is that funding came from EM Media and the region’s now-closed development agency (EMDA).

Given that we are including villages just a mile or so outside Nottingham, A Boy Called Dad (2009), about a teenage father, also merits inclusion. An East Midlands production company raised the £1m needed to start shooting – obtaining funds from the former Regional Screen Agency, EM Media. North Wales and Merseyside locations also feature however.

West Midlands

Nativity! (2009), a film about a nativity play competition, is the stand-out Coventry (and West Midlands) film. Spon Street, various city landmarks and, in particular, the bombed-out St. Michael’s Cathedral can be seen in the film, which was written, directed and produced by Coventry-based Debbie Isitt, herself a product of a two-year Coventry Performing Arts Service course, and premiered at the city’s SkyDome Arena. The multi-talented Isitt even does the music along with her long-term partner Nicky Ager. Nativity! drew on Isitt’s memories of her primary school in Birmingham, which resurfaced when her own daughter (who appears in the film) reached the same age. The other children in the film, almost none of whom had agents, were recruited from schools around Birmingham and Coventry. In 2008, BBC Coventry and Warwickshire followed the filming and, to complete the local angle, Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre even played a part in production. It’s an enjoyable feel-good Christmas film suitable for all ages.

The absence of a film from Birmingham is the elephant (not) in the room; the world is surely due a great Brum film? That said, there have certainly been good films from the city and these are outlined in the spreadsheet referred to below.

Scoring

Overall the films from the South, East Anglia and the Midlands offer some additional perspectives on England to those in the films featured last blog. Through watching them we see a nation with vibrant seaside towns, attractive provincial cities, ancient and redbrick universities, factories, and the post-industrial landscape left behind when these closed.

Anyway, once again I have used my “highly scientific” method to score those films. The full list of scores, complete with further details on all films, is available here. The top-scorers, for each region, are:

  • East – I’m Still Here (Norwich): 10.5 points
  • East Midlands – This is England and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (both Nottingham): 9 points each
  • South East – Down Terrace (Brighton): 12 points
  • South West - A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (Bristol): 7 points
  • West Midlands – Nativity! (Coventry) 11.5 points

The next installment will look at the best city films from the three regions that make up the North of England.

The author, a Brit based in Washington DC, is founder of The New Barn-Raising a project to promote international exchange on ways to sustain parks, libraries, museums and other community and civic assets. You can find him on Twitter at @newbarnraising.