Hooligan Sparrow

PBS Premiere: Oct. 17, 2016Check the broadcast schedule »

Film Update

In October 2016, Hooligan Sparrow filmmaker Nanfu Wang updated POV on what's happened since the camera stopped rolling.

What has happened in the lives of Ye Haiyan and her daughter since the end of the film? What about Wang Yu and the other activists?
Ye's passport has been confiscated since November 2014. She has been prohibited from leaving China, but she is still speaking out actively online. Ya Xin is currently enrolled in high school and is expected to apply to college in 2019.

Wang Yu, one of the courageous activists in the film, was arrested during a massive crackdown on human rights lawyers in China in the summer of 2015. The police claimed they suspected Wang Yu and her colleagues of "illegally organizing paid protests." Wang Yu was charged with state subversion and was released on bail more than a year later, in August 2016. However, her family and lawyers were not informed of her release, and her release was dependent upon a taped confession in which the lawyer says that she was forced by "foreign forces" to speak out against the Chinese government. In the video, she renounced her former legal activities and human rights work and said, "I am Chinese. I only accept the leadership of the Chinese government."

Wang Yu's whereabouts remains unknown. Two other activists that were featured in the film - Jia Linmin and Shan Lihua are still in prison.

How has the film been received in China? Has there been any blowback from the government? What difference do you see in the reaction from US and international audiences?
It has not been officially shown in Mainland China, but it was shown multiple times in Taiwan and Hong Kong where audiences responded very strongly. There's not much chance that the film will ever be shown officially in China any time soon. But we're hoping to make it available for people to see.

What surprised me was that no matter in which country the film was shown, people from all over the world responded in similar ways. Many people expressed shock and outrage. Also, many people felt that to varying degrees the abuses depicted in the film - unlawful detentions, media censorship, women's rights abuses - also were taking place in their own countries.

How do you hope the film will contribute to conversations about human rights, government corruption, and women's rights in China and around the world?
Many people have come up to me after screenings and expressed their shock at the current state of human rights in China. I've realized that people around the world have developed an image of China as a place that is developing rapidly and ascending as a global power.

What's missing from the narrative is China's continuing human rights crisis, and I hope this film will add to people's understanding of what life is really like for Chinese people.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the film? What actions can people take to support Ye Haiyan and her movement?
I hope that audiences will understand that state of human rights in China and will be inspired to take action. We set up a charitable education fund for children of Chinese human rights defenders.

Many of the children of activists in China are at a disadvantage because their parents have very limited financial resources. They struggle to support their children's education and meet other important needs. In more extreme cases, when activists are detained by the government, their children have to look to other people to meet their needs. Our fund was set up to help support activists and their families in these situations in China. Through our fund you can donate to Sparrow's daughter Yaxin, lawyer Wang Yu's son, and many kids like them. The fund is administered by Humanitarian China, which is a registered charity with a long and distinguished record of supporting human rights activists in China.

What are you working on next?
I'm currently working on a film titled I Am Another You, which is in post-production. It follows a 24-year-old guy who left a comfortable life to intentionally choose to live on the streets of America.