Illustrated by Daxiong

Posted on May 16, 2022

5

Overall winner of this year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, eternal spring won the Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Feature and the Hot Docs Audience Award. Directed by Jason Loftus, the film takes audiences behind the scenes of the spiritual/religious group Falun Gong’s attempt to hijack China’s state television signal. eternal spring explores the days leading up to the hijacking and its violent aftermath. Narrated using beautiful 3D animation, eternal spring is an interesting story about government censorship – though an eyebrow or two might be raised at the obvious bias Loftus exhibits in his film.

Falun Gong is a religious movement founded by Li Hongzhi in China in the early 1990s. Initially, Falun Gong was practiced in mainland China without opposition from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), but as its popularity grew , that quickly changed. From Falun Gong’s perspective, the CCP is threatened by the ever-growing size of the group and the independent thought it promotes. From the mouth of the CCP, Falun Gong promotes teachings that are dangerous and inconsistent with the cultural and social progress that the party wishes to achieve.

The CCP has been accused of carrying out torture, conversion, and even organ harvesting programs against Falun Gong in its efforts to suppress the religious group. eternal spring details some of these stories and lays the groundwork for Falun Gong’s motivations for hijacking the Chinese state broadcaster.

Illustrated by Daxiong, a Falun Gong practitioner and acclaimed comic artist behind graphic novels like Justice League and star wars, eternal spring uses a method similar to the Oscar nominee To run away by presenting all the reconstructions as vast animations. The illustrations are superb and add a rich and beautiful dynamism to the film.

In addition to illustrated re-enactments, Loftus includes interviews with Daxiong, who participated in the uprising and hijacking, and other Falun Gong practitioners from around the world. Currently living in New York after fleeing China following the police raids on the group, Daxiong sets out on a journey to find out how the hijacking took place while telling her own personal story with the organization. While talking with other practitioners, stories are revealed about the resilience of some famous members of the group, including an individual nicknamed Big Truck, and the strength they showed in the face of discrimination.

The goal of eternal spring is to shine a spotlight on the CCP’s unjust persecution of a religious group, and for the most part, it succeeds. Loftus inspires great sympathy and compassion for his subjects and for Falun Gong as a whole. However, eternal spring does not give the public the full picture.

The CCP’s aversion to (what we in North America would consider) basic freedoms, including freedom of religion, has been well documented and rightly condemned by human rights activists and organizations. That being said, eternal spring this is how Falun Gong draws a line between religion and sect, and how its leader, Li, presents himself as the savior of mankind against aliens. Group support The old times and his far-right beliefs, including promoting anti-vaccine conspiracies and QAnon, are never mentioned. Nor is he linked to Shen Yun, a touring dance and music company whose performances have been interpreted by many as homophobic, misogynistic and racist.

The battle between Falun Gong and the CCP has been going on for over 20 years. And while the violent and disturbing persecution of any group should be known to the world, creating a false narrative by omission serves neither the film nor the audience. By portraying Falun Gong as an irreproachable entity without responding to any of its critics, eternal spring is, at best, an advertisement. At worst, it is simply propaganda. (high sky)

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