Monday, January 27, 2020

Slamdance ’20: Ask No Questions

The world should be horrified by the evidence of genocide emerging from East Turkestan, but we shouldn’t be so surprised. To a large extent, the Chinese Communist Party is merely repeating the game-plan they used to launch their wholesale crackdown on Falun Dafa (or Falun Gong). Today, Party propaganda tells the world they are simply rotting out terrorists. In the case, of Falun Gong, it was religious extremism. Filmmakers Jason Loftus & Eric Pedicelli ask the hard questions about the incident used to justify the anti-Falun Gong campaign that the Western media should have in the riveting expose documentary, Ask No Questions, which premiered at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival, in Park City.

Falun Dafa is a spiritual practice combining Buddhism and Taoism that is not inherently political, but its rapid growth spooked the Communism Party, so true to form, they prohibited it. Those who still practiced, were subjected to physical and mental torture in re-education camps. Whoever refused to recant became slave laborers in work camps (much like what is happening in East Turkestan).

For a while, the world expressed concern over this naked repression of Falun Gong, but the release of video tape supposedly documenting practitioners self-immolating on Tiananmen Square largely defused the issue. (In fact, the IOC rewarded the CCP for their brutality by approving China’s bid for the 2008 Olympics.) Ever since, the incident has made practitioners like Loftus defensive. Yet, when he took a hard look at the tape, he noticed some suspicious inconsistencies. CNN reporter Lisa Weaver (who happened to be on the Square at that very moment) had questions about the official story, but she was not allowed to follow-up, because CNN wanted to protect its Beijing bureau.

Throughout Ask No Questions, Loftus points out the strange circumstances surrounding the incident, starting with the fact the self-immolators had no known history of practicing Falun Dafa. He also interviews at length Chen Ruichang, a former state television official and Falun Dafa practitioner, who refused to recant despite the brutal torture he endured in a prison camp.

Some of Loftus’s evidence is circumstantial, but he readily identifies it as such. He never overblows or overplays any objections to the official story, but the cumulative effect is overwhelming. Perhaps most chillingly, Loftus & Pedicelli identify the parallels between the alleged Falun Dafa incident and a false flag self-immolation chronicled in Wang Lixiong’s novel Yellow Peril, which the CCP authorities would be well familiar with, since they banned it in China.

Loftus appears throughout the film, providing a personal perspective, but he still marshals his case quite credibly and persuasively. He raises so many legitimate questions, it really puts CNN to shame. Again, there is no hyperventilating and no over-reaching, just reasonable questions. However, there is one critical point Loftus misses. The possible (likely) framing of Falun Dafa did not just impact practitioners. The world’s subsequent acceptance emboldened the CCP to apply such tactics against the Uyghurs in East Turkestan and they are already starting to roll them out in Tibet. Regardless, this is an incisive documentary that arrives at a perfect time. Highly and urgently recommended, Ask No Questions screens again this Wednesday (1/29), as part of this year’s Slamdance.