I’m Nanfu Wang, the director of Hooligan Sparrow which is on the Academy Award Short List for Best Documentary this year. My film follows Chinese activist Ye Haiyan (who is known more widely by her nickname, Hooligan Sparrow, in China) she and her band of colleagues 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 face interrogation, harassment, and imprisonment.

During the filming, I became a target alongside with Sparrow, as we faced destroyed cameras and intimidation. Thanks to guerrilla-style shooting, with secret recording devices and hidden-camera glasses, we captured footage that exposed the high level of corruption that human rights activists face in China. Eventually, through the help of friends I was able to smuggle the footage out of the country.

Watch the Hooligan Sparrow trailer here: https://vimeo.com/167259439 and the film is now available on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon and in select theaters.

Proof! http://imgur.com/a/RR8Xn

Ask Me Anything!

Comments: 29 • Responses: 9  • Date: 

NanfuWang3 karma

It's time for me to sign off for now. Thanks for all the great questions. I’m heading out to our screening in LA today. If you’re in the city, please come join me at Museum of Tolerance.

The film is also available on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, etc. For more updates, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

rmnms2 karma

Is Lawyer Wang still imprisoned?

NanfuWang3 karma

Wang Yu was arrested in July 2015, formally charged with state subversion in February 2016. After extensive global news coverage and appeals from international NGOs calling for her release, Chinese authorities forced Wang Yu to perform a "confession" on national TV. But she has not been seen since and is assumed to be held in a secret prison, without legal representation, and without ever having stood trial.

hugefilmfan1 karma

Could you go to jail for smuggling this footage? Is the Chinese government aware of this film? Did they contact you?

NanfuWang2 karma

Interesting question. According to the Chinese law, nothing I did was illegal. I have the right to film in public, the right to freedom of expression, yet I was harassed for filming a public protest on the street; I was interrogated for trying to make a documentary. "Could I go to jail for smuggling the footage?" It depends on whom you ask. For me, I shouldn't have to "smuggle" the footage out in the first place. I'm sure they're aware of the film, given that they had questioned me, and contacted my family and the people in the film.

estycant1 karma

Can I watch it China?

NanfuWang1 karma

Are you in China? One of my biggest hopes is that the film can be seen widely in China but unfortunately it's unlikely that it will be shown officially or publicly any time soon. But as far as I know, some people in China have already found their way to watch it.

nofway2day1 karma

Hi, I haven't seen the film but I'm wondering, have you been back to China since this film came out? Do you still feel like the US is a safer country compared to china now that Trump will be our president?

NanfuWang3 karma

I haven’t been back to China since the film was released. There’s a risk that the government could retaliate in some way, either by detaining me when I arrive, by harassing me with interrogations, or by preventing me from leaving the country after I return. I will only find out until I try. I feel safe in the US for the time being, but I believe no place will be safe if people do not stand up against injustice.

shadig1 karma

What was the most exciting and most scary moment of filming this documentary?

NanfuWang1 karma

Well, I guess the exciting moments and the scary moments were very different moments. I was very excited when I finally met with Ye Haiyan for the first time after trying to get a hold of her for days, and realized that she was going to stage a protest against the Hainan Rape case – a national braking news at the time that I had read all over the news and social media. It was exciting to know that I was going to find out more about the story beyond what the media had reported.

To me, the scariest thing was the uncertainty of what was about to come. We didn’t know who was going to be arrested next or what was going to happen. I was constantly afraid that my footage would be confiscated. But I also found humor in the paranoia I felt as a filmmaker. My biggest fear was that the police would break into the house and take all the footage. So a few times when I heard a knock at the door, I quickly hid the camera, but it turned out to be just people we knew, and we would all laugh. On the other hand, it also was a deeply sad feeling to know that if I were ever caught, there would be very serious consequences.

docfan41 karma

Has Hooligan seen the film? What did she think?

NanfuWang2 karma

Yes. When I showed Ye Haiyan (AKA hooligan sparrow) a rough cut of the film almost two years after I shot it, she said she was amazed how her memory had filtered out of some of the painful moments, but watching the film reminded herself again all the things she had tried to forget. She was shocked by how much she had gone through and yet she was really glad that they were documented. Her daughter Yaxin said, “It will take many books to tell what I went through in just a few weeks.”

thenoctilucent1 karma

The documentary ended with several protestors stuck in prison or missing - are there any updates? Has anyone else featured in the film been harassed or imprisoned?

NanfuWang2 karma

Ye Haiyan (hooligan sparrow) has been prohibited from traveling since her passport was confiscated by the authority in November 2014. She is frequently "visited" by the police.

The brave human rights lawyer Wang Yu, one of many activists who appear in HOOLIGAN SPARROW, faces a 15 year prison sentence for defending the rights of ordinary Chinese citizens victimized by the state, including schoolchildren who were raped by their principal.

Activists Jia Linmin and Shan Lihua, two of the women who appeared at the Hainan protest in the film are still in prison without trials.

lizanelle11 karma

I saw your film at Sundance. Can't wait to get it into more cities! Is there anything you yourself are excited to see at this years festivals? What's your next project?

NanfuWang1 karma

Thanks! You were one of the first people who saw it. It's been quite a journey since our Sundance premiere last year - the film has been screened at about 100 festivals in over 15 countries. It is available on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, etc. Unfortunately I won't be able to go to Sundance festival this year. I'm looking forward to be amazed by the films that will come out of the festival later this year. Currently I'm still working on bringing Hooligan Sparrow to a wider audience, and hoping it will help raise the awareness about the situation of human rights lawyer Wang Yu. I'm also finishing another film that I've been working on titled I Am Another You.