Filmmaker Wang Nanfu shares alarming risks with her subject, accompanying fearless Chinese women’s rights activist Ye Haiyan on a mission while facing intimidation at every turn.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2016
Smuggled out of China before it could be completed, Wang Nanfu’s film stands as a courageous testament to the liberating potential of journalistic freedom, and an unnerving reckoning of the forces most invested in keeping it from ever happening.
When she offered to work for free at one of China’s brothels, Chinese women’s rights activist Ye Haiyan (aka Hooligan Sparrow) brought widespread attention to abuses in a sex industry that officially does not exist. Such media-savvy provocations have long since made her a thorn in the side of Chinese authorities, one they would gladly do without. She’s subject to constant surveillance and interrogations, and repeated threats of violence. (Her friend and fellow activist Ai Weiwei recreated the scene when Sparrow and her daughter were evicted from their apartment for his recent retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum.)
Filmmaker Wang Nanfu accompanies Sparrow as she protests about a case where six school girls were sexually abused by local officials with the apparent connivance of their school principal. The documentarian soon finds herself intimidated too. The dangers they both skirt are palpable in confrontation after confrontation.