Hutongs are a traditional form of architecture in Beijing that once dominated the city, but are now found mostly near the Forbidden City in the heart of the Chinese capital.
But China’s economic boom, as well as the decaying nature of many of the structures, have made the hutongs, with their central location, prime candidates for destruction. “A hutong is actually an alley, however the meaning is much greater than a physical space,” said Beijing-based American filmmaker Jonah Kessel.  “In Beijing, and China, it kind of refers to a way of life, almost a communal atmosphere.” Kessel decided to make a documentary about the decline of the hutongs. “I moved into the neighborhood where the issue exists, so it was in front of my face before I actually went full-forward with the project,” said Kessel.

The result is “The Fate of Old Beijing,” a documentary exploring the city’s hutongs.  “It is a complicated issue,” said Kessel.  “They are incredibly old structures and they haven’t been maintained, the people who have been living in them for extremely long periods of time, family after family, generations, haven’t had money to actually modernize them and take care of them.” Many of Beijing’s hutongs date back to the 13th century.