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Finding Courage

Kay Rubacek
United States, 2020, 81 min.

In Chinese & English with English subtitles.

A former journalist for the Chinese Communist Party  living in exile in San Francisco struggles to settle into life in America while working to heal her family's wounds from their tragic past. She is seeking justice for the murder of her sister at the hands of the Chinese authorities. Rare undercover footage of a meeting with the director of the labor camp where her sister was killed reveals shocking admissions of torture, slave labor, corruption, and a general disregard for human life pervading the camp system today. Exclusive interviews with former Chinese Communist Party officials provide a unique insight into the hidden world of terror that many Chinese citizens live without ever knowing that life can, and does, exist with freedom outside their world.

Director's Statement

Finding Courage began as a short documentary profiling Yifei Wang, a former Chinese journalist, who I’d met during the production of our last documentary, Hard To Believe. In a follow-up interview with Yifei, I was blown away by how her personal experience connected to so many aspects of the Chinese regime’s persecution of the popular meditation practice, Falun Gong. I felt that telling her story could present the complexities of this highly politicized issue in a way that is relatable to a broader audience, beyond people who are already interested in Chinese politics or human rights. As we began documenting Yifei’s journey, her brother, Leo, who had been in prison serving 13 years for printing Falun Gong flyers, was released and escaped to America with his wife. Traumatized, but in awe of American freedom, Leo and his wife began their journey of healing in front of the camera. Soon we heard Yifei’s family in China were going to visit the labor camp where Yifei’s sister had been murdered because she refused to give up her faith in Falun Gong. The family agreed to use secret cameras to film the process. After they successfully relayed the footage out of China to us, I felt indebted to the family to tell their story in the form of a feature documentary. We were able to track down survivors in the same labor camp as Yifei’s sister who has witnessed her persecution. We also tracked down a former labor camp director who defected from China because he refused to be an accomplice to the abuse of Falun Gong practitioners in his labor camp. His candid testimony, along with other defectors and witnesses, were surprisingly insightful for me, despite my own years of research into Chinese politics and society. The access we gained to this story, due to the bravery of this family of survivors, astounds me to this day. It was their resilience that provided me the courage, as a first-time director, to traverse the difficult journey across cultural, linguistic, and political divides to interweave all the elements of this story into a single film about one family’s search for freedom and justice -- Kay Rubacek, Director, Finding Courage.

Category: Feature Doc.
Themes: Human Rights, Family, Religion.

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