‘Free China’ Film Wins International Awards and Recognition

The documentary Free China: The Courage to Believe won the top awards in its category at three international film festivals in April and May 2012. The documentary was directed by Michael Perlman, a filmmaker and activist who previously directed the documentary Tibet: Beyond Fear.

Kean Wong, a Chinese-Australian filmmaker, TV producer and host for New Tang Dynasty Television, produced the documentary and accepted the Special Jury Award on April 21 at the 45th Houston International Film Festival – the highest award given in its category this year.

The 45th WorldFest-Houston Film Festival is the oldest independent film festival in the world and received 4500 entries in 2012. On May 6, the film won the top award in its category at the Awareness Film Festival in West Hollywood, while on May 16, Free China took away top honours at the inaugural International Free Speech Film Festival in Philadelphia.

The film has now won top honours at six film festivals and the music was nominated for Best Soundtrack at the 2012 Hollywood Music In Media Awards. The film was screened publicly for the first time at the Palm Beach International Film Festival on April 14 and 16.

The Chinese consulate attempted to dissuade the festival from screening the film in Florida. In Houston, the Chinese consulate made multiple attempts to contact festival director Hunter Todd and discourage him from giving the award, all to no avail.

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Free China producer Kean Wong (L) and Michael Perlman (R). (Catherine Yang/The Epoch Times)

Michael Perlman understood the calls from the consulate to be an attempt at censorship. , and was quoted as saying, in a press release e-mailed by New Tang Dynasty Television, a co-producer of the documentary:

Free China tells the story of two Falun Gong practitioners who left their homeland after being persecuted for their faith. Human rights violations in China are the backbone of this documentary, as told through the interviewees.

The two main individuals in the film are Jennifer Zeng, a mother and former member of the Chinese Community Party, and Dr Charles Lee, a US businessman. Both were imprisoned and persecuted in China.

Other interviewees in the film include David Kilgour; former Canadian Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific); Representative Chris Smith, US Congressman and senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee; and Ethan Gutmann, the author of Losing the New China.

Free China documents the persecution of Falun Gong, a popular Chinese spiritual practice, through the stories of the two adherents who were incarcerated and tortured by Chinese authorities because of their beliefs.

The practitioners’ personal stories are told against the backdrop of the 13-year-long persecution faced by more than 100 million Chinese people.

Jennifer Zeng’s story

Jennifer Zeng became a prisoner of conscience in China and a human rights activist in exile. In telling her story, the film examines the journey to freedom taken by millions of Chinese citizens who have chosen to speak up against injustice in China.

Ms Zeng was granted political asylum by Australia and now lives in the United States. She is the author of the bestselling book Witnessing History: One Woman’s Fight for Freedom and Falun Gong. Ms Zeng, who was visibly touched while giving a speech at the award ceremony in Philadelphia, said:

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In telling Jennifer Zeng’s story, Free China examines the journey to freedom taken by millions of Chinese citizens who have chosen to speak up against injustice in China. (Screenshot from New Tang Dynasty Television)

Charles Lee’s three years in a labour camp

Alongside Ms Zeng, US citizen Charles Lee is profiled in the film. Mr Lee is a former Harvard Medical School fellow who was imprisoned in a Chinese labour camp for three years for attempting to publicise the persecution of Falun Gong in China by tapping into the state-controlled television.

Mr Lee suffered the same inhuman treatment as Ms Zeng – mental and physical torture, brainwashing, forced-feedings, forced labour and the threat of becoming a victim of forced organ harvesting.

Both Mr Lee and Ms Zeng discussed their Chinese labour camp experiences of making toys and other consumer products sold in the United States by American companies. The film also examined the role of leading Western technology companies in the development of the Chinese regime’s Internet censorship to suppress free speech.

In the speech given at the Philadelphia award ceremony, Mr Lee, who was accompanied by his wife and 2-year-old daughter, thanked the American people for their role in trying to end the injustice in China. He said the persecution of Falun Gong has reached far beyond the 100 million Falun Gong practitioners directly affected:

Mr Lee continued:

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Charles Lee shows a pair of “Homer Simpson” slippers similar to the ones he made while incarcerated in a Chinese labour camp. (Image courtesy of New Tang Dynasty Television)

Mr Perlman said he directed the film in the hope that it would foster real freedom inside China:

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