BH Interview: 'Free China' Producer on Why the Communist Country Fought to Stop His Film
Some documentaries will use a line similar to this for promotional purposes - "It's the film (insert documentary target) doesn't want you to see."
In the case of "Free China: The Courage to Believe," that turned out to be precisely the case.
Kean Wong, producer of "Free China," tells Big Hollywood the Chinese consulate in the U.S. contacted many of the festivals showing his film and told them not to screen it. The respective festival directors stood their ground, but the requests merely highlighted the issues at the heart of the movie.
"Free China," winner of four international film festivals, follows two Chinese natives as they recall their homeland's battle against free speech, the Falun Gong movement and anyone who dares stand up to the Communist government. We learn about the government's insistence on uniformity of thought and its willingness to jail citizens who don't toe the Communist Party line.
We witness much of it through the eyes of Jennifer Zeng and Dr. Charles Lee, two Chinese-born activists who endured time in the country's re-education camps where they suffered emotional and physical abuse.
"It was always the goal to have them anchor the film," says Wong, whose film has been nominated for Best Soundtrack Album at the Hollywood Music In Media Awards. "Storytelling is the key ... the personal, compelling stories they had were totally relatable."
The movie, which screened yesterday at the Aurora History of Museum in Colorado, puts the mainstream media to shame for not covering more aspects of China's human rights travesties. Wong is also disturbed that China's human rights abuses haven't been discussed in detail during the U.S.'s current presidential campaign.
Yes, Chinese trade issues flared up at times, but Wong says the U.S. in seeking cheaper production overseas diminishes its values while giving up precious intellectual property rights.
The government that cheats, lies and kills its own people - why would you want that as a trading partner?" he asks.
Wong hopes his film plays a role in China's path to freedom.
"We don't want another Tiananmen Square Massacre. It's all about peaceful, nonviolent change. It takes time, but it's worth it," he says.
That time might not be as long as some Chinese citizens fear.
"I feel very optimistic it will happen in our lifetime," he says. Chinese experts only here the propaganda put forth by the government. Wong says he hears people at the grass roots level and counts up the number of protests per year - 150,000 - and sees reason for hope.
"We really need to get to the truth," he says. "The longer term strategy, use the power of media and storytelling ... it's changed the world [before]."