When Swedish director Elefteria Kalogritsa saw people moved to tears by a story of brutal suppression, she sold her summer home to tell it on film.
The film is already garnering recognition and awards. It recently received the Shen Zhou International Film Festival Justice Prize, one of only two films honored at the event.
When Ms. Kalogritsa attended the U.N.'s 2002 annual conference for human rights in Geneva, Falun Gong practitioner Jane Dai spoke at a press conference. "I am a person not easily moved but this day, at the press conference outside of the United Nations' building, I could not prevent the tears from rolling down my face. I looked around and noticed that I was not the only one," the filmmaker recalled.
The documentary tells the story of Ms. Dai and her daughter, Fadu Chen. The documentary made its U.S. debut at the Shen Zhou International Film Festival in Washington DC last week. The film has been screened at film festivals throughout Europe and also in Australia. Irish National Television previously broadcast it during prime time.
Ms. Dai says that her husband Chen Chengyong was tortured to death because he refused to give up the practice of Falun Gong. The director knew that many human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have documented the persecution of Falun Gong in China, but listening to a personal experience was something more powerful for the filmmaker.
The film follows Ms. Dai and little Fadu on their world journey. Ms. Dai tells how she traveled everywhere to find the meaning of life before starting the practice of Falun Gong, and about finding the book Zhuan Falun. "What I had searched for all my life was in that book."
Ms. Dai met her husband at a Falun Gong study group. She describes how she changed from thinking only of herself to following the principles of Truth, Compassion, and Tolerance.
Before Chinese authorities ordered the suppression of the practice, Ms. Dai recalled how there was often more than 1000 people practicing in the park on a given day.
As the practice spread—not only in every part of Chinese society, but in more than 60 countries around the world—the regime felt a growing threat from a peaceful practice that outnumbered the communist party.
In July 1999 the regime banned the practice, tens of thousands were arrested and homes ransacked. Millions of copies of the book Zhuan Falun were destroyed and the entire power of the state bore down on law-abiding citizens who practiced Falun Gong.
The police arrested Chengyong Chen while he delivered a letter to the appeals center in China. No one could contact him in person or via telephone.
Ms. Dai says that the arrested Falun Gong practitioners are treated worse than convicted criminals in jail. "In China inmates can see their families, but not Falun Gong practitioners if they don't give up their beliefs."
Jail police beat her husband and reduced sentences for criminal inmates who also beat him. He later died from unknown causes and his body was dumped in a hut.
Jane Dai and Fadu, now seven, feel they must tell the world about their tragedy. "So I have to carry my baby, and go around the world to tell all the people that Falun Dafa is good."
Drawing courage from her husband's death, Ms. Dai will not stop speaking out against a powerful opponent. "We believe that power and money cannot change people's hearts. Torture and killing cannot change people's hearts."
The director says the film's title reminds viewers that like plum blossoms that bloom in winter and herald spring, "the persecution will not remain, the change of seasons is already passing by, and despite the winter cold, spring is on its way."
Ms. Dai and her daughter appear to be very resilient plum blossoms, and bloom wherever they take their message. One comes away with the thought that perhaps never before and never again will the world witness how the torture and killing of millions was stopped in its tracks by truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.
Plum Blossom in Snow, directed and produced by Elefteria Kalogritsa, Cinora Film 2005, is being shown at select theaters and film festivals throughout Europe and North America. For more information, go to www.plumblossominsnow.com.