Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: Hooligan Sparrow

China has a population of well over a billion people. However, it’s highly likely that you or I know much more about what’s going on in the country than those actually living there. Despite relaxing restrictions in the new global climate, China is very much a nation under censorship. Corruption is rife amongst government officials and within the police, whilst the state controls the media. Ye Haiyan (aka Hooligan Sparrow) is an outspoken campaigner for women’s and children’s rights.

Nanfu Wang is a young filmmaker who returns to her native China after studying in America for two years. Not having the basis of a film in mind before she started shooting, she joins Sparrow and a group of intrepid campaigners as they travel to Hainan Province in southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal. This starts a chain of events which leads to them becomingly increasingly targeted by gangs of government sponsored thugs.

Hooligan Sparrow is brave and courageous filmmaking, especially for a debut feature. Wang herself became a target of the authorities and the film had to be smuggled out of the country. It’s a film which really needs to be seen in China; a country where women’s and children’s rights exist on paper alone. Hooligan Sparrow is activist filmmaking at its best and highlights the government’s continuing crackdown on those who try and protect human rights in China.

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