SAN JOSE, Calif.—Tears and silence filled the theater as audience members processed the emotional yet hopeful story in the award-winning film “Unsilenced.”
Based on a true story, the two-hour film follows the experiences of an American journalist stationed in China as well as two young couples. The American journalist, tired of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) lies, resolves to take a big risk to bring the truth back to America. He quickly finds himself a target of the CCP.
The movie also reveals the types of persecution and torture the two couples living in China endured as they spread the truth about the spiritual practice Falun Gong.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, includes meditative exercises and moral principles based on truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. According to official estimates, there were 70 million to 100 million Falun Gong adherents—more than the reported number of CCP members—before the CCP began to persecute Falun Gong in 1999.
The film’s director, Leon Lee, said producing a movie like “Unsilenced” is difficult due to the Chinese regime’s influence on Hollywood.
Audience members in the Bay Area told The Epoch Times they felt moved by the story and hope more people can see the film.
Marc Frost attended a showing in Union City. He said he is familiar with the CCP’s persecution and human rights atrocities and appreciates the emotional storytelling.
“I think it was a good movie. It highlighted a lot of the injustices going on in China and the evil done by the Communist Party,” Frost said. “I think it’s easily forgotten when people are going on with their daily lives. I think it’s sometimes good to remember it and see it. It’s easy to become emotionally detached from the news, even if you intellectually know about it.”
He watched the movie with his friend Ms. Xiang. She is a human rights activist who assisted lawyers and Falun Gong practitioners in China during the 2014 Jiansanjiang incident.
She told The Epoch Times in Chinese that four prominent human rights lawyers—Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng, and Zhang Junjie—had been assisting Falun Gong practitioners who were being held in illegal detention facilities known as “black jails.” The lawyers were subsequently arrested and jailed themselves.
Xiang said that after the lawyers’ release in 2014, they made public the news of the torture they had experienced, including being hung by their wrists, beaten, and kicked. Xiang and nearly 300 other human rights activists and lawyers went to Jiansanjiang to demand accountability from authorities.
She said the film “Unsilenced” is well-written and exposes many of the realities she and people still in China face today.
“Just as the film says, many human rights activists, people with differing opinions, and other people of faith are being persecuted. They need more people to know the truth and need more attention,” Xiang said. “The last sentence of the film amazed me.”
Another audience member, Peter Yang, watched the film in Union City and expressed a wish to donate $1,000 to help with film promotion and encourage more people to watch.
Audience members in San Jose were also familiar with the ongoing persecution, and they said seeing these real stories told on the big screen made the knowledge more real.
Donna was surprised by the emotional impact of the story but agreed that the ending offered a bit of hope.
“It really brought it to home more. It hit harder,” she said. “The fact that the truth is being told to more and more people—maybe they’ll do something, say something.”
Donna watched the film with her friend Sally, who wished more action could be taken to address the ongoing persecution.
“[The movie] is a way of getting educated, because we’re very isolated here in America. We can say, ‘Yeah, well, they get tortured over there,’ but we don’t really know what that’s like,” said Sally.
Both recommend that people see the film to learn more about the truth of the situation taking place in China today under the communist regime.
Bay Area theaters extended the film showing for an additional week until Feb. 3 in response to the positive audience reception.
Ilene Eng contributed to this report.