Director Masha Savitz’s new film reveals a side of China many of her peers ignore in their push to crack that country’s lucrative film market.
Red Reign explores how Chinese officials persecute members of Falun Gong, the spiritual movement which blossomed in China over the last 20 years.
The film says Chinese officials use the group’s members for involuntary organ donations, surgeries which often lead to the deaths of the patients. China’s organ donation business is a profitable one, though last year the country vowed to stop the practice of using death row inmates for organs.
Chinese officials declared the practice of Falun Gong illegal in 1999 but deny the allegations made in the film as well as by human rights advocates across the globe.
Why would China fear such a group in the first place, let alone potentially commit such atrocities upon its members? Numbers help explain the situation, Savitz says.
“By the late ’90s there were more than 100 million practicing Falun Gong members,” she says. “It made [Communist officials] very nervous, and jealous … the Communist party cannot have people not afraid of them. That’s how they control people.”
Plus, strict adherents to the Falun Gong movement can resist bribes, she adds, one proven way in which party officials get their way.
Savitz’s connection to the project began when she was assigned to cover a speech by human rights attorney David Matas for The Epoch Times. Matas has been tracking China’s treatment of the group for some time, and the speech made the director willing to confront the matter head on.
Matas is the co-author of Bloody Harvest, a book detailing human rights abuses in China, and is featured in the film.
Gleaning information from the Communist country is difficult, but Red Reign relies on people with personal connections to the atrocities. Some of the interview footage left the director shaken.
“I almost couldn’t bare it,” she says of putting parts of the finished film together.
Savitz says China’s abusive policies should concern everyone, even Americans without personal ties to the country.
“We do trade with them. We buy their products … there are so many reasons we’ve become complicit,” she says.