USA, 2016; 84 mins
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.”
Barbara Kopple is a two-time Academy Award winning filmmaker. A director and producer of narrative films and documentaries, her two most recent projects are the documentaries Miss Sharon Jones!which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in September 2015, was the opening night film of DOC NYC and tracks the talented and gregarious soul singer of the Grammy-nominated R&B band Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings during the most challenging year of her life and Shelter which tells a story of vets saving vets, delving into the psychological trauma created by military service, the effects that remain long after active duty, and the difficult road back to a normal life for these women and men. Other recent projects include Hot Type: 150 Years of The Nation which examines America's oldest continuously published weekly magazine through the eyes of the passionate journalists who have sustained its critical voice and Running from Crazy, which premiered at Sundance in 2013 and received a 2014 Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special. Fight To Live, which through the eyes of terminal patients and their advocates tells the story of the struggles many with rare and orphan diseases face in choosing their preferred therapies through the roadblocks imposed by the current FDA approvals process. A Force of Nature, which celebrates the life and work of journalist and philanthropist Ellen Ratner, following her from her home base in Washington, DC, to hurricane-ravaged Mississippi to war-torn South Sudan; Gun Fight, which explores the place of guns in US culture, profiling victims of gun violence and proponents on both sides of the gun debate; The House of Steinbrenner, part of ESPN’s Emmy nominated “30 for 30” series, which received a 2010 Peabody Award as well as the International Documentary Association Award for Best Continuing Series; and the Emmy-nominated, Woodstock: Now and Then, a look back at the legacy of the historic music festival, 40 years later. Well known for her work on US labor issues, Barbara directed Steamfitters Local Union 638 in 2007 for HBO’s acclaimed Addiction Series. The New York Times likened this short documentary to “crisp tonic with lime.” This program was awarded the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences Governor’s Award.
Nanfu Wang is a filmmaker based in New York City. Originally from a remote village in China, Wang overcame poverty and lack of access to formal secondary education. Her work often features the stories of marginalized or mistreated people. From Chinese blood donors stricken with HIV from used government-issued needles to the left-behind children of migrant laborers, Wang’s short films have been distributed on many platforms and translated into several languages. Wang is a recipient of a Sundance postproduction grant, Bertha Britdoc Journalism Fund, a Sundance Documentary Fellow, and an IFP supported filmmaker. Her feature debut Hooligan Sparrow has so far received support from Sundance Institute, IFP, IDA, and BRITDOC. Nanfu Wang holds three master’s degrees from Shanghai University, Ohio University, and New York University in English Literature, Media Studies, and Documentary respectively.