Director: Nanfu Wang; China and USA, 2016; 84 min.
Meet “Hooligan Sparrow,” a.k.a. Ye Haiyan, a tireless Chinese women’s activist. In this tense, riveting first-hand account by first-time filmmaker Nanfu Wang (which she smuggled out of the country), viewers get a front-row seat to Sparrow’s activist efforts, from posing as a sex worker to shaming a high school principle accused of raping his students. With “on-the-ground urgency, [this] nervy, paranoid” (Screen Daily) docu-thriller presents a harrowing view of state surveillance and intimidation, as the characters are constantly under threats of harassment and violence. It’s also a devastating critique of China’s policies (as one of the film’s characters testifies, “China is so corrupt that it’s become fashionable for government officials to have sex with young girls.”) A “rabble-rousing” portrait, according to RogerEbert.com, “the movie’s fighting spirit is a standout.”
Followed by Q&A with director Nanfu Wang