Free China: The Courage to Believe (Perlman, 2011)


One of the more unfortunate side-effects of the polarization and politicization of American discourse is that we’ve seriously devalued the word “persecution.” 

We feel persecuted–and let people know it–when the daily eddies of life’s stream don’t flow even through our comfort zones.

Free China: The Courage to Believe is about some serious persecution. There are testimonials regarding imprisonment, forced labor, brainwashing, even the harvesting of human organs for profit. The objects of persecution are practitioners of Falun Gong, a combination of meditation, slow moving exercises, and moral cultivation.

Perhaps the best part of Free China is its willingness to name names, as those interviewed detail not only their horrific working conditions but the particular products they manufactured and the companies that profited from their labor.

The most problematic aspect of the film is its lack of context. The average American knows shockingly little about China. Additionally Mike Daisey’s high profile This American Life story has conditioned viewers to look somewhat skeptically on the most sensational claims that happen in such indictments.

The film does a good job, however, at humanizing the macro issues by relying on first-hand accounts.

Free China: The Courage to Believe is one of those films that is so small that you have to seek it out, which guarantees that those most likely to see it are those who least need to be informed.  But it’s out there, making it increasingly hard to ignore what is happening in the world around us with the lame excuse that we have never been told. If you see it playing in your area, take an hour of your life to listen and to inform yourself. If nothing else, it may make you pause the next time you feel tempted to parrot some talk radio comment about American government or use words such as “persecution” and “oppression” to describe some aspect of your life that is less than ideal.

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