As connected as we are as a world now, it’s sometimes hard to believe that horrible atrocities can still be happening in other countries. While we like to believe that most countries have the same rights as us, more and more we’re learning that is not the case, and while some have better rights than we do – others still live in countries that are more oppressive than we even know.
Unsilenced is trying to bring international attention to a human rights issue that took place (and arguably) is still happening in China. It focuses on the government’s crackdown on practitioners of Falun Gong in 1999, right before the Olympics. The religious practice was started just a few years before and combines meditation and qigong (‘Qi/Chi cultivation’) exercise with moral philosophy. The way Unsilenced portrays it, the practice is more a spiritual practice than a religion, although really – there’s not much we really know about it here.
The movie follows a group of college students who are practitioners of Falun Gong and a reporter who just got back into China when the Government starts to crack down on it. It also shows how naive the students were when they report to the office and volunteer to speak on behalf of the movement to address issues. While this is taking place just ten years after Tiananmen Square protests and massacres – the students were taught only what the government wanted them to know and believe.
This not questioning of the government’s version of the truth, not only leads to the students being tortured but even others being killed or disappearing throughout the crackdown. It is a surprising shock to the system to see this portrayed on the screen and a reminder of what happens elsewhere in the world. And that just this story being told or put on the screen was risky enough, since most of the atrocities that have happened to the practitioners of Falun Gong may still not be known.
The right to religious freedom seems like something that should be protected everywhere, and Unsilenced reminds us that’s not the case. Arguably, it’s often one of the rights that we struggle with here as well. But, currently, we’re not living under a regime that will jail or kill us for practicing moral teachings.
Unsilenced will have a limited audience, not only due to the topic of the film but because more than half of it has subtitles. While not everyone’s cup of tea, this story would have lost some of its weight if it was dubbed over or redone in English. It is the type of movie that will have you doing research and searching after you watch it.
Unsilenced will be in theaters on Friday. The film was shot in Taiwan. Due to the subject of the film as well as the CCP’s propaganda and infiltration in Taiwan, the production was met with near-insurmountable obstacles. While the topic may not be one that a lot of people are interested in learning about – bringing attention to this type of censorship as well as the human rights issue is an important topic. While it may not have a bigger box office draw, it is something that will give viewers a better understanding of the issues happening in China even to this day.
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Can truth prevail in the face of the most powerful propaganda machine? When the Chinese communist regime launches a brutal crackdown against 100 million citizens, a jaded American reporter teams up with a handful of innocent students to expose one of the largest human rights violations that continues to this day.
Peabody Award-winning director Leon Lee brings us a feature film that exposes how lies are fabricated and voices of dissent crushed by the state propaganda machine. The film explores the role journalists play in times of oppression because “journalism can never be silent.”
The film stars Sam Trammell (True Blood, Breakthrough, The Order), and Anastasia Lin, Miss World Canada 2015, and an ex-special forces operative turned Taiwanese actor, Tzu-Chiang Wang. Zhen Pictures will open Unsilenced theatrically in the United States and Canada on January 21st, 2022.
Based on true events, Unsilenced follows Wang, a student at an elite university in Beijing, and Daniel, a cynical American reporter, as they attempt to navigate the 1999 order that banned Falun Gong in China and remains in effect to this day. With the risk of prison, torture, and even death looming over them, they must all make sacrifices to protect what’s true at all costs.