New to VOD this week:

Jason Loftus and Eric Pedicelli

World Premiere:
Slamdance 2020

A speculative investigation of a controversial Falun Gong-related protest in 2001.

In 2001, in footage partially caught by CNN foreign correspondents, several alleged Falun Gong practitioners self-immolated in Tiananmen Square. The Chinese media turned this into a spectacle, following the case and the survivors for several weeks, and used this to turn the public against what they deemed a brainwashing cult. Up to this point, Falun Gong had emerged as a very popular, peaceful spiritual practice that was even endorsed by Communist Party leaders. When the practice started to gain so many followers that it threatened the control of the state, it was outlawed. Falun Gong practitioners, including one of the film’s directors, Jason Loftus, doubted the veracity of the Tiananmen Square self-immolation incident, believing it to be staged by the Chinese government to discredit the religion. In support of this theory, Loftus finds Ruichang Chen, a Falun Gong adherent who worked for Chinese TV helping to doctor media reports for propaganda purposes, and who was imprisoned and tortured for refusing to denounce Falun Gong. Beyond this compelling figure, however, the filmmakers’ investigation goes into wildly speculative directions that strain credulity. Leaving this aside, the film, while earnest, is unfortunately marred by the filmmaker’s presence through excessive narration, as well as re-enactments that lend it a television feel.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Releases

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