Monday, January 17, 2022

Unsilenced: A Thrilling Movie About the Suppression of Falun Gong in China

Recently, a feature film that depicts the human rights abuses in China bagged the 2021 Audience Award in the 28th Austin Film Festival this year. The film, titled Unsilenced, depicts the life of a couple studying at Tsinghua University in China. They helped a Western journalist shatter the surveillance and obstruction apparatus of the CCP. The students of course had to pay a bitter price for their courage, but the effect produced was worth the suffering.

Although it is 2021, citizens in some countries of the world still do not experience the freedom and democracy they deserve. Much has been said and written on the gross human rights violations happening in China, a nation that is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Human rights groups have lambasted the Chinese government for its gross acts that violate the basic human rights of its residents and those of neighboring regions.

A scene from the movie 'Unsilenced' showing people doing the peaceful Falun Gong exercises in a park in China.
A scene from the movie ‘Unsilenced’ showing people doing the peaceful Falun Gong exercises in a park in China. (Image: via Flying Cloud Productions)

Leon Lee, the director of the movie, says in an interview: “This film is not just about depicting human rights abuses in China and how Chinese citizens stand up [against the regime] to spread information, it is also about the fierce battle between truth and lies, which takes place not only in Mainland China. Questions about what is ‘truth,’ how to seek out ‘truth,’ and what are the values of ‘truth’ are also of great concern to people in modern western societies.”

‘Unsilenced,’ a movie about Falun Gong

The director of this acclaimed film has a Chinese-Canadian origin and he has spent a lot of his life working on human rights issues pertaining to China. Another award-winning film he made named Human Harvest exposed the clandestine practices of the CCP in the illegal organ trade. Unsilenced is based on the ancient Chinese spiritual practice called Falun Dafa. It became so popular in the 1990s that the then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin tried to suppress it by using force. Several million Falun Gong followers have been arbitrarily detained and tortured in labor camps.

Unsilenced stars Anastasia Lin, a beauty pageant winner and human rights advocate, and Sam Trammell in key roles. The core beliefs of Falun Dafa or Falun Gong are based on truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. It was unveiled in the early 1990s and became widely popular, even outside China.

Sam Trammell who plays the part of Daniel Davis, a newspaper reporter in China who help uncover the communist regime's oppression of Falun Gong, is seen here holding a camera in a still taken from the movie, 'Unsilenced'.
Sam Trammell plays the part of Daniel Davis, a newspaper reporter in China who helps expose the communist regime’s oppression of Falun Gong. (Image: via Flying Cloud Productions)

The film shows that the CCP thinks the growing popularity of Falun Gong is a threat to its existence and then resorts to hardcore measures to restrain its followers. When a Falun Gong practice session is stopped by the authorities, a group of students submits a complaint to a regional government office. That is what unleashes all the mayhem.

The CCP propaganda machine works overtime to project the complaint submission as an act of atrocity. The unrest catches the attention of an intrepid newspaper journalist, Daniel Davis. He is assisted by Min Xu, who cautions him about the risk of carrying forward the investigation. How they proceed amidst the risky environment and an aggressive government’s machinery hell-bent on crushing a peaceful movement forms the crux of the story.

Unsilenced is not affected by the slow pacing that is typical of films based on political events and it does not drag unnecessarily. It has the racy feel of a Tom Clancy flick and the viewers remain alert throughout the movie. The runtime is less than 2 hours and the actors, including the supporting cast members, turn in a stellar performance.

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Max Lu
Max Lu is an author who specializes in Asian geopolitics.
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