PASADENA, Calif.—Cheers accompanied tears from the audience at Pasadena’s Laemmle Playhouse 7, where the award-winning “Unsilenced” just screened, telling the true story of how a group of carefree youths with promising futures from a top university in China became ostracized outlaws risking their lives every day to expose a series of government propaganda and lies when the brutal persecution against Falun Gong began in 1999.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice with meditative exercises and moral principles based on truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. According to official estimates, there were 70 million to 100 million adherents—around the same number reported to be members of the ruling Communist Party—before the Chinese regime began a brutal persecution of the popular practice in 1999.
Millions have since been detained inside prisons, labor camps, and other facilities, with hundreds of thousands tortured while incarcerated, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center.
According to the film’s director, Leon Lee, making a movie like “Unsilenced” is difficult due to the Chinese regime’s influence on Hollywood.
Audience members who watched “Unsilenced” on Friday, the first day of its screening, said they found inspiration and hope.
Edgar Avendano congratulated the movie for its achievements and said it is uplifting and inspires people to do and stand up for the right thing.
“The mission of the film is to make you feel somewhat hopeful that there is redemption. At the end of the day, there is some hope if we fight for what’s right,” he told The Epoch Times.
Avendano’s friend, Veronica Flamenco, said her eyes were full of tears when watching the movie and she saw the same thing happening in the United States.
“We live in the U.S. and do not recognize the dissimilarities that happen in China. It’s already happening in the U.S. as well,” Flamenco said. “You can see the correlation very clearly if you’re aware of what’s going on with freedom of speech, because every single totalitarian regime starts [with] censoring people. By censoring people, [they are] suffocating the truth.”
Craig Walterscheid said he came to learn more about the persecution against Falun Gong practitioners in China and hoped to see more movies on similar topics.
“Lies just lead to suppression of justice, of freedom. Lies are on the side of the oppressor, and in the small, and at home, and in the larger part of society and in our government,” he said.
The movie has also attracted many Falun Gong practitioners in Southern California. Some of them had undergone persecution in China before coming to the U.S. and said they shared experiences illustrated in “Unsilenced.”
“The movie reminded me of what I had to go through when the persecution just took place in China,” said Waylon Guo, a former math professor who taught at a university in Shanghai.
Guo was sentenced to four years in prison for practicing Falun Gong and was constantly harassed by the police.
“My wife and I were monitored by the police 24 hours a day. I was also facing tremendous pressure from my family, work, and community. My supervisor talked to me every day, trying to brainwash me with the propaganda created by the Chinese Communist Party,” Guo told The Epoch Times.
Eric Zhang, a graduate of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Beijing Institute of Technology, was sentenced to five years in prison for practicing Falun Gong. He told The Epoch Times that he met the archetype of the movie’s main character, Wang, when they were both detained in jail over ten years ago.
“[The movie is] very moving and very real. When the Chinese Communist Party started the persecution against Falun Gong, I was in Beijing,” Zhang said. “I have had a lot of similar experiences with Wang. What we did was also similar, and that is to clarify the truth to people [about the persecution].”
Jennifer Zhang, a college student who began practicing Falun Gong with her parents at age of three, said “Unsilenced” is a “thought-provoking” movie and it tells the real story happening in China.
“It really touched me when I saw those young people risking their lives for justice and holding on to their faith as they encounter all kinds of oppression from the communist regime. What’s more important is that it’s a real-life event that has happened and still taking place in modern China,” Zhang told The Epoch Times.
Zhang said she went through similar situations in China like those practitioners in the movie, as she was taught by her elementary school teacher about how practicing Falun Gong can be harmful, “which was clearly CCP’s propaganda.”
“As simple as meditating in a park or reading a book that teaches people how to stay truthful, compassionate, and tolerant could make you suffer months if not years in the prison or labor camp,” she said.
Another practitioner, Emily Huang, told The Epoch Times that she watched the movie twice already, and she plans to bring her friend to see the movie again in the coming week.
“Unsilenced” is directed by Peabody Award-winning director Leon Lee, who also filmed acclaimed documentaries “Letter from Masanjia” and “Human Harvest.”
Selected from over 6,000 entries, the film won the Audience Award at the 2021 Austin Film Festival—the largest gathering of screenwriters in the United States.
“Unsilenced” is now screening in selected theaters in 30 cities across the country.
For more trailer and ticket information, please visit https://unsilencedmovie.com/
From The Epoch Times