hooligan-sparrow-poster-2016I love gutsy women and Ye Haiyan aka Hooligan Sparrow has got to be one of the gutsiest around. As a Chinese women’s rights activist she has put herself in serious peril over and over to get the government to treat women better. In this gripping documentary, American based Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang also puts herself in jeopardy simply by telling Ye’s story. She begins in the south of China on Hainan Island with a group of women who are protesting outside a school whose principal, accused of supplying six underage girls to government officials for sex, has been given a slap on the wrist. And this first encounter with the police (and their undercover thugs) and the women on the front lines of China’s women’s activism sets up the whole film. The filmmaker is questioned by police and becomes along with Hooligan Sparrow the object of constant surveillance and intimidation.

Sparrow was already famous for becoming a sex worker and giving away sex for free to try and get basic protections for China’s prostitutes. hooligan-sparrow-620x348But her overall crusade for basic human rights in China puts her in the crosshairs of the state. As she is followed by Wang, she is thrown in jail, thrown out of her house, dumped on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and assaulted by strangers. But she perseveres. The film also becomes a bit of a thriller as the filmmaker resorts to using hidden cameras, glasses cams, and phone cams to get the footage she needs, hides out from the police, and worries that she will never be able to get her video out of the country because of the government scrutiny. The film that begins with, “What follows is the story I captured before they took the camera from me,” is ultimately a highly compelling story of amazingly courageous women exposing the grotesque police tactics of the Chinese government. And I highly recommend it!

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