IN THEATERS - FULL, QUALIFYING THEATRICAL RUN
NEW YORK - STARTING
at Cinema Village - Director Nanfu Wang in-person!
LOS ANGELES - STARTING
at Laemmle Music Hall - Director Nanfu Wang in-person!
at Laemmle Playhouse
Additional Cities to Follow“Hooligan Sparrow” debuted at Sundance Film Festival in January;
Was Opening Night Film at Human Rights Watch Film Festival New York 2016
From Director Nanfu Wang, who followed a group of activist seeking justice for school children who were raped by their principal; the activists and Wang were subsequently chased around the country by secret police and angry mobs incited by the Chinese government.
Synopsis: The danger is palpable as intrepid young filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan (a.k.a Hooligan Sparrow) and her band of colleagues to Hainan Province in southern China, to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal. Marked as enemies of the state, the activists are under constant government surveillance and faced interrogation, harassment, and imprisonment. Sparrow, who gained notoriety with her advocacy work for sex workers’ rights, continues to champion girls’ and women’s rights and arms herself with the power and reach of social media.
Filmmaker Wang becomes a target along with Sparrow, as she faces destroyed cameras and intimidation. Yet she bravely and tenaciously keeps shooting, guerrilla-style, with secret recording devices and hidden-camera glasses, and in the process, she exposes a startling number of undercover security agents on the streets. Eventually, through smuggling footage out of the country, Wang is able tell the story of her journey with the extraordinary revolutionary Sparrow, her fellow activists, and their seemingly impossible battle for human rights.
Hooligan Sparrow is Nanfu Wang’s feature debut. It’s executive produced by Andy Cohen, Executive Producer for Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (Special Jury Prize, Sundance 2012) and Alison Klayman, Director/Producer of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry; co-written by Mark Monroe, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and six-time Sundance veteran: The Cove (Winner, Best Documentary 2010 Academy Awards & Best Documentary Script, W.G.A. 2010); with original score by Nathan Halpern, Rich Hill (Grand Jury Prize, 2015), and graphics by Garry Waller, Watchers of the Sky (Special Jury Prize, Sundance 2014).
Filmmaker Statement - By Nanfu Wang:
I first heard about Ye Haiyan (who is known more widely by her nickname, Hooligan Sparrow, in China) a few years ago when I read an article online about a Chinese woman who was offering to work as a sex worker – for free. I’ve lived in China most of my life, and I’ve always been interested in issues related to sex workers’ rights, so I was curious to learn more about this woman and what motivated her. Sparrow had a long history of advocating for women’s rights in China, and her offer of free sex in the Ten Yuan Brothel stemmed from a desire to expose the terrible working conditions in the brothel and also the desperate lives of the migrant workers who visited them.
As I researched Sparrow, I learned that like me, she came from a poor farming village with limited access to education. I appreciated her respect for people whom Chinese society rejected, and I shared her desire to understand their lives more deeply. I reached out to her via e-mail in early 2013 to see if she’d be willing to let me film her as part of a larger video project about sex workers in China. She replied, “When you’re in China, we’ll talk.”
On May 14th, 2013, I returned to China from the U.S where I had lived for two years at the time. When I landed and got a hold of her, she was in the midst of preparing for a public protest with a number of other activists. Two government officials in southern China had taken six schoolgirls to a hotel for a night, and the local government seemed poised to hand down a perfunctory sentence. Sparrow and her fellow activists wanted justice to be served for the girls and their families, so they planned to stage a public demonstration denouncing the government and the officials, a move that could land all of them in prison.
The chain of events I witnessed in the months that followed the protest shocked me. I’ve never had illusions about fairness in China’s justice system or the accountability of its government. But I never expected to see ordinary people turn on their neighbors who were fighting for their rights. I never expected to be attacked by screaming mobs just for filming on the street. I never expected to be interrogated by national security agents, and that my family and friends would be harassed and threatened by secret police.
But this is the China I saw.