The story of the Falun Gong religious sect taking over Chinese state television for over an hour in 2002 isn’t well known in the Western world, but it had devastating consequences within the country.
Jason Loftus explores this event and its aftermath in his Mandarin-language animated documentary Eternal Spring, which is Canada’s entry for the Best International Feature Film Oscar race.
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Speaking with Deadline documentary editor Matthew Carey, Loftus explained the importance of collaborating with the Chinese artist Daxiong, who was forced to flee the country in the hijacking’s aftermath.
“This was an exciting opportunity for me because we had this artist who lost his home,” Loftus said. “He had been detained. He endured torture. He had all of this wrapped up in this event, and he wanted to explore it. He wanted to understand it. Daxiong himself wasn’t directly involved in hijacking the airwaves, but he suffered as a consequence of it because the police operation involved thousands of arrests in the aftermath.”
The takeover itself was an incredible success, but the crackdown against the Falun Gong members who carried it out was devastating.
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“Even people who were not directly involved were caught up in the police raids,” the filmmaker said. “I mentioned Daxiong himself having to leave his home. But there were others who were tortured to death the day or the evening that they were arrested, and they had not directly participated. But Daxiong has a quote early in the film he mentions, ‘They would kill a thousand people just to find the right one.’”
Loftus added that he has actually received requests to screen the movie in China but was forced to politely turn them down.
“If I get an invitation from the government, it’s a one-way ticket — and I’m not taking it,” he said. “But we have had individuals who have said, ‘My family has also suffered under the regime and I want to organize a screening.’”
Despite his inability to physically travel to China, Loftus says that he still has plans to attempt to make the film available there.
“We’re going to collaborate with technology companies that break through the firewall in China so that we’re not going to monetize it. We’re going to make the film available for people to see there. So that they can see the story.”
Check back Monday for the panel video.