Women’s Rights Violations in China Exposed on the Big Screen

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Each year, the Sundance Institute hosts its Sundance Film Festival where scores of filmmakers express their voice through authentic and original films, documentaries, performances and more.  

Last month Nanfu Wang, a Chinese director, was one such filmmaker.  The festival showcased the world premiere of her work Hooligan Sparrow, a film that follows iconic Chinese women’s rights activist Ye Haiyan (a.k.a. Hooligan Sparrow) and her colleagues to Hainan Province in southern China to protest the case of six elementary schoolgirls who were allegedly raped by their school principal and a government official.  

Wang, who now resides in New York, returned to China in 2013 intent on documenting Chinese sex workers.

She recalls, “I was interested in Chinese sex workers’ story, their life and rights. So I contacted Ye Haiyan. I kept filming because I believed that someone needed to record what was happening and share it with the world.”

The film evolved into not only documenting Sparrow and her team protesting the case in Hainan, but also the fierce intimidation and violence directed at them – Haiyan and her human rights activist followers are on government surveillance and face the constant threat of harassment and imprisonment.

Because Wang experienced some of this harassment first-hand while shooting her project, most of the startling footage was cleverly caught via hidden camera-glasses and secret recording devices.

Hollywood Reporter’s film review praises Wang’s tenacity and devotion to exposing China’s vile human rights violations: “This guerrilla-style documentary is brave…Wang has managed to uncover in the process another human-rights outrage in China, the thug-like nature of government’s intrusion into private lives…Throughout, Wang makes a virtue out of necessity: Her on-the-run scoping and jarring cuts infuse the film with a sense of desperate danger befitting its subject matter.”

Hooligan Sparrow has already been screened at six venues in the US, and Wang further hopes for it to be shown in Hong Kong and the mainland.



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