Film & TV

Director of ‘Unsilenced’ Reveals What Propelled His Movie

BY Linda Jiang TIMEJanuary 21, 2022 PRINT

This movie tells of the experience of a Tsinghua University student who spent 8 years of his youth behind bars and the story of an American journalist, sick of the Chinese Communist Party’s lies, who penetrated the regime’s scrupulous surveillance system and brought the truth back to America. The winding story that tugs at the world’s heartstrings is now being projected onto the big screen.

After years in the making and winning the 2021 Austin Film Festival’s Audience Award, “Unsilenced” will be in select theaters starting Jan. 21 across the United States.

Based on a true story, “Unsilenced” tells the experience of two young couples from Tsinghua University and an American journalist stationed in China. While facing brutal persecution against their faith, they willingly sacrificed themselves to bring the truth to the international community.

The film is directed by Peabody Award-winning director Leon Lee and stars Tony Award-nominated film star Sam Trammell, former Canadian Miss World Anastasia Lin, and four rookies from Taiwan.

The Chinese-language Epoch Times interviewed Lee on Jan. 7, who shared his journey in film-making and some behind-the-scenes stories.

“If you feel that our society needs more people to insist on telling the truth, this film and the main characters’ choices may give you some inspiration,” Lee said.

The Austin Film Festival, one of the Oscar Qualifying Film Festivals, is known as the largest playwriting competition event. The organizer revealed that more than 6,000 films were submitted this year. After a rigorous screening process, 9 categories of jury awards and 11 categories of audience awards were finally selected, and “Unsilenced” was chosen as one of the winners.

Lee said he was present when the film was screened at the Austin Film Festival, and had the honor of interacting with many audience members.

“From their feedback, I could feel that they were deeply touched by the story,” he said. “In such a harsh environment as China, there are still so many people who have the courage to stand up and speak sincerely from the heart in the face of lies and pressure. I myself also think this is truly admirable.”

Lee also revealed that his crew encountered challenging situations during the film shooting. Because the subject matter of the film is sensitive, there is no way they could go to China to shoot and set the scenes. So the team shot the film in Taiwan.

“But even in Taiwan, due to many influences from China, we encountered tremendous pressure, obstruction, and interference. Many cast and crew members were also under pressure in various aspects. In making this film, we are actually experiencing the stories told in the film,” Lee recalled.

“But after several years of hard work, from writing the script at the very beginning, to finally being able to cut the film and release it, we are very happy that the film is now here for the audience.”

Lee was deeply moved when real-life Wang (the main figure in the film) shared his personal story with him. He felt he had the obligation to tell Wang’s story. In a sense, “Wang’s spirit served as an inspiration for all our cast and crew members,” he said. “If he could do it amid such adversity in China, then we have no reason to give up in the relatively safe environment outside China.”

Lee believes that the movie, although involving a small group of individuals, presents profound messages. How do we remain unswayed in our conscience in the face of adversity and difficulties? These themes are eternal and universal, and they truly touch people’s hearts.

He also expressed thankfulness to all the cast members. “Many people don’t have a deep understanding of the human rights abuses happening in China. Only those who made efforts to understand the persecution would be willing to take part in the movie, and only then can he or she present excellent performances in the film. It is not so much that he is acting in a movie, it is better to say that he is also using this form to make his own voice.”

The film “Unsilenced” will be released in theaters in 30 cities across the United States on Jan. 21.

From Jan. 21 through 27, “Unsilenced” can be seen at the Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, California, for audiences in the greater Los Angeles area.

Linda Jiang
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