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Interview With the Filmmaker of ‘How 70 Million Meditators Became the Next Target’

Award-wining documentary film The Persecution of Falun Gong has finished doing the rounds at film festivals, and has finally been released online.

The documentary achieved the daunting task of summarizing 15+ years of the ongoing persecution against the Falun Gong spiritual group in China, within ten minutes on screen.

The film is directed by Swedish born, documentary filmmaker Mathias Magnason, and produced by Paulio Shakespeare through New York-based Swoop Films.

How 70 million meditators became the next target? (Image via Swoop films Screenshot/Vimeo)

How 70 million meditators became the next target. (Image: Swoop films via Screenshot/Vimeo)

The online release coincides with the 15-year anniversary of the infamous “self-immolation” event that was used by the then Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin, to justify an increase in arrests, and the use of torture in the nationwide persecution.

On January 23, 2001, a group of people claiming to be Falun Gong practitioners set themselves alight in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. In the film, live footage and analysis of the incident indicate the self-immolations were staged by the Chinese regime to turn public opinion against Falun Gong.

The film presents stories from eyewitnesses who saw the growth of the popular Falun Gong practice between 1992 and 1999, and the persecution that officially began on July 1999.

Director Mathias Magnason. (Image via Magnason Film)

Director Mathias Magnason. (Image: Magnason Film)

Director Mathias Magnason was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Below in his interview:

Your tagline for the film is intriguing — ‘How 70 million meditators became the next target.’ Can you explain that for someone who hasn’t seen the film yet?

Mr. Lao Ye, compares the persecution to his memories of the Cultural Revolution “For thousands of years the Chinese people have believed in Buddhas and Daos…the communist party (CCP) brought in atheism, said all those things were wrong…Falun Gong really dared to talk about these things, immediately people took it to heart. Oh, the true ancient good things of China have come back,” says Mr. Ye in the film.

“For thousands of years the Chinese people have believed in Buddhas and Daos… the Communist Party (CCP) brought in atheism, said all those things were wrong… Falun Gong really dared to talk about these things, immediately people took it to heart. Oh, the true ancient good things of China have come back,” says Mr. Ye, an ex-CCP member who compares the persecution to the Cultural Revolution in the film. (Image: Swoop Films via Screenshot/Vimeo)

What inspired you to make this film?

Practicing Falun Gong in China before the crackdown. (Image via Swoopfilms Screenshot/Vimeo)

Practicing Falun Gong in China before the persecution. (Image: Swoop Films via Screenshot/Vimeo)

How long did it take to make and how did it change along the way?

What obstacles did you encounter in making the film?

Did you learn anything new on the subject, in the process of making the film?

Mona Ye was one of the millions meditating in parks every day. (Image via Swoop Films Screenshot/Vimeo)

Mona Ye was one of the millions meditating in parks every day. (Image: Swoop Films via Screenshot/Vimeo)

How did you choose who to interview in your film? Was anyone at risk by being involved in this film?

Can you talk a little about the self-immolation hoax?

Self-immolation hoax. (Image via clearwisdom.net)

Self-immolation hoax. (Image: clearwisdom.net)

What can the international community do to help improve the situation in China?

Can you talk about some of the audience reactions to the film, or Q&As you have attended?

Protest from the international community after the crackdown. (Image via Swoopfilms Screenshot/Vimeo)

Protest from the international community after the crackdown. (Image: Swoop Films via Screenshot/Vimeo)

What is your background as a filmmaker?

What project are you working on now?

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