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Sunday, May 06, 2012

Ying Liang - A Chinese filmmaker's plight

Two weeks ago, I translated Professor Si-Tu Zhao Dun's words of wisdom about how film directing as a profession does not really exist shared by my friend, the Chinese filmmaker Ying Liang.

I met Ying Liang in late 2009 at a Chinese restaurant near Keio University. It was quite a coincidence, we were both at the university for separate screening events (he was a guest of a showcase of independent Chinese directors, I was there for the Con-Can Movie Festival Screening of my Grand Prix-winning short, Fleeting Images), and we all ended up at the same restaurant. It was even more coincidental when it turned out that he knew Ming Jin too (and a bunch of other Malaysian director friends of mine whom he met in various film festivals).

Ying Liang had directed a few feature films, like TAKING FATHER HOME 背鸭子的男孩 (2005).



THE OTHER HALF (2006), GOOD CATS (2008), and the Tiger Award-winning short film CONDOLENCES (2010).

He also ran the Chongqing Independent Film and Video Festival. My dad went to the 2010 edition of the festival and ended up meeting Ying Liang as well. The world is very small.

A few days ago, Dad called me from the Jeonju International Film Festival (which Ying Liang was invited as one of the three directors for this year's Jeonju Digital Project, along with Filipino director Raya Martin and Sri Lankan director Vimukti Jayasundara).

"Did you hear what happened to Ying Liang?" Dad asked. "He can't go back to China anymore. It had something to do with the new film he made."

I was a little mortified.

A few days have passed. And finally, on Ying Liang's Facebook status update, he sort of shed some light upon this matter:

It's a so stupid country! I just made a film, maybe it's very bad, very boring, very bullshit, and it's really a film only...

In the past one month, the policemen from Police Department, National Security, National Protection visited my family in Shanghai at least seven times. They used the intimidate words to talk with my parents, such as: "Major Case", "Special Case", "Important Case","Force Action", "Arrest" ... Then they went to Sichuan, visited my wife's family, used the same way to do...Then they went to HK, fault me that my film didn't meet the truth, and violate somebody's emotion (they got my script through non-legal way)... Then they went to South Korea, want to use 10,000,000,000won (about 50,000,000CNY, about 5,000,000Euro) to buy the copyright of this film... I came back in HK the day before, and heard the head of Shanghai Police Department gave an order: once I am in China, they will arrest me.

OMG, I just made a film, it's really a film only...


这是一个愚蠢透顶的国家。我不过拍了一部电影,也许是一部很差、很闷、很狗屎的电影,真的只是一部电影唉。。。

过去一个月,公安、国保、国安轮番到我上海家里,对我父母“轰炸”:什么大案、要案、特案、特别办理、“刚性行动”、“回国就逮捕”。。。所有能想到的恐吓词汇一并用上;之后跨省到四川我太太家,又是连日“轰炸”;再跨境到香港,指责我作品不符合案情实事,侵害某些当事人的感情(他们通过非法手段,看过我的剧本)。。。再之后是跨国到南韩,向全州市政厅和全州影展提出,用100亿韩元(5千万人民币)购买版权。。。前天我回到香港,昨天从警察系统内部听说,上海市公安局局长亲自下的令,只要我回国,先逮捕再说。。。

天,我只是拍了一部电影,真的只是一部电影唉。。。

This is indeed quite horrifying.

Looking at the comments section, Ying Liang responded to some well-wishers.

The title of his film is WHEN NIGHT FALLS 《我还有话要说》 (literal translation: "I still have something to say"), which is possibly a fictionalized (?) account about the case of Yang Jia (a guy who got executed in 2008 for murdering six policemen with a knife in a Shanghai police station after being arrested and beaten for riding an unlicensed bicycle. Mr. Yang became a hero among many Chinese, and was later executed.) and his mother. (who disappeared after being taken to the police station for questioning prior to her son's trial, and, well, reappeared months later in a psychiatric hospital with a different name, another article about Yang Jia's mother can be read here)

It is his contribution to the Jeonju Digital Project.

Ying Liang is now stuck in Hong Kong.

He later posted (on Facebook) a letter to his parents.


亲爱的爸爸妈妈,

如果你们真的想帮我,不知后来接受警察的恐吓时,是否做了录音?如果没有的话,请下次有机会时,录下。这些都是必要的证据。

假设与你们讨论前信,我担心陷入无效的争辩。我只提一点:根据我从小受的教育,面对不公义的对象,无论个人还是政权,首先想的肯定不该只保全自己。因为不公义者破坏的是环境,是每个人的权益和普通个体的未来。

这个制度会走到今天:说句话,拍个片,安全会受威胁,自由被用来当成交换条件,是我们所有人共同促成的,鼓励的。最希望司法独立,言论受保护的,过去的有刘少奇,陈良宇,现在有薄熙来和王立军,未来是每一个现在正滥用权力的既得利益者。

希望我的父母可以坚持对我的教育,希望你们不要继续以服从,配合,劝导的方式纵容这台腐烂的国家机器,并以保护人身安全的名义让你们的儿子失去作为人的尊严和维护正当权利的机会。

应亮

My (rough) translation of his letter:

My dear parents,

If you really want to help me, did you record what the police said when they were threatening you? If not, if this happens again, please record them. They are important evidences.

I don't really want to get into a long debate with you. I merely want to point out that, what I learnt when I was a child is that, when facing injustices, be it a personal one or a political one, the first thing that crosses my mind is not my own self-preservation, because those who caused these injustices are destroying our environment, our rights and our future.

This system existed til today: A single line you say or a single film is enough threaten your own safety. Freedom is used merely as a bargaining chip. This system existed because we ourselves contributed and encouraged it.

I wish you (my parents) can uphold what you taught me from before. I wish you will not choose conformity, compromising or persuasive methods to indulge this country's corrupt system, just for the sake of self-preservation, you'll end up causing your son to lose his dignity as a human being and also the loss of opportunity to fight for his rights.

Ying Liang

I don't know what will happen next. Hang in there, Ying Liang.

(you can follow Ying Liang on Twitter)
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