& How to Watch Them:
Hooligan Sparrow (2016): A high tension documentary following Chinese activist Ye Haiyan (aka Hooligan Sparrow) and other activists marked as enemies of the states as they seek justice in the case of six elementary school girls sexually abused by their principal. A documentary filmmaker’s primer in how to persevere.
Dear Nanfu Wang,
When I first saw your documentary Hooligan Sparrow, about Chinese activist Ye Haiyan's fight for six little girls who were sexually abused by their principal, I was terrified for you. At the beginning of the film you seemed as nervous as anyone would be about going up against a famously oppressive government. Then, as the filming goes on and the government targets and threatens you, you become increasingly fearless. You start ignoring the odds stacked against you. When cameras are impossible to use, you shoot with secret recording devices. You smuggle footage out of the country so that this story can be told. It's an amazing transformation to watch and one that makes me hopeful that such transformation, from concerned person to bold activist, lies within all of us - even within me.
Also, the film is so masterfully filmed and edited, it's as exciting as any big screen thriller. And if anyone doesn’t believe me, Hooligan Sparrow’s Peabody Award, George Polk award, IDA award, and place on the Oscar documentary shortlist should be convincing.
As determined as you were to make the film, I’m most inspired by your determination to make a lasting impact. And undoubtedly you did since earlier this year Ye Haiyan's daughter received a full scholarship to a high school in the US. She is here now, free of the constant threat her family faces in China and thanks, in part, to you. It's the kind of impact I aspire to help create and an incredible testament to the power of your filmmaking. You not only garnered support for Ye Haiyan’s family, you emboldened other political activists and human rights lawyers in China.
There's a ton of injustice in the world - more than it feels like we can fix. But I have hope because there are filmmakers like you who aren't going to sit by and let this shit fly.