January 10, 2017 -- Protesters, whistleblowers and reformers of all stripes never have it easy, even in the United States, but in China, it is a whole different story. In China, the police beat you and put you in jail, and the government pays more people to beat you up, and then arranges for your landlord to evict from your own home. If that doesn't stop you from protesting, the government might get rough.
This is the message of this daring documentary, done with very little money and a whole lot of courage by Nanfu Wang, an American citizen who takes a lot of chances to document women's rights protesters in China. The protesters she films take even more chances. Their courage is inspiring.
The movie's main character is Ye Haiyan, born in 1975 on a farm in rural China. She achieved national fame by infiltrating the sex trade and famously offering free sex for a day to highlight the plight of sex workers. She campaigns for the rights of sex workers. She opposes violence and sexual aggression against prostitutes, other women and children.
The movie shows Ye Haiyan and several other men and women protesting against a school official who had arranged for school children under his care to be used as sex slaves. He was later convicted and sentenced to prison for his crimes, but the protesters were relentlessly harassed and punished by police and paid stooges. The film opens with some of these paid thugs attacking Nanfu Wang and breaking her camera. The film ends on a similar note.
The movie documents the sinister side of a surveillance state where protesters and people like Nanfu Wang are tracked by their credit card purchases. As Wang is filming people, other people, working for the government, are filming her. The police arrest protesters on trumped-up charges, and sometimes they are held for long periods of time with no charges being filed at all. Lawyers working on behalf of protesters are also harassed and arrested. The legal system is rigged against them.
Protesters have little power against the government in China. Their only hope is to bring their issues to the attention of the public and hope that eventually things will improve. I was struck by what one of the protesters, a man named Huang, said: “When you are oppressed and defenseless, the only thing you can do is to document the atrocities.” That is not all that different than what is happening with the increasing number of videos of unarmed black men being killed by police in this country. The videos are a revelation to most white people, but are no surprise to the black population.
Documenting what Ye Haiyan and other protesters are going through in China might not change anything. On the other hand, it might move the cause forward a little bit. Here's to a courageous filmmaker, and some courageous protesters. This film rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.