Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Outcry and Whisper, on

Regardless whether your taste in initials leans more toward MAGA or BLM, you won’t find a confrontational protester in America with as much sheer fortitude as the performance artist seen during the opening scene of this film. To make a statement on Mainland China’s social and economic constraints on women, she proceeds to make a series of horizontal and vertical cuts straight across her face. It is hard to watch and impossible to forget. While that is far and away the most visceral image, several other marginalized and oppressed Chinese women dramatically speak out and fight for their rights in Wen Hai & Zeng Jinyan’s Outcry and Whisper, which premieres this Friday on

Zeng is not just the co-director. She is also a subject of
Outcry. For years, she lived under house arrest with her former partner, human rights activist, Hu Jia. She even documented their home imprisonment in the short doc, Prisoners in Freedom City (an excerpt from which is seen during Outcry). After ten months of Covid-CCP-virus shutdowns, house arrest might not sound so exotic now, but we still do not have to contend with the constant police surveillance and harassment Zeng and Hu faced. The stress took a toll on their relationship and lately, she has also had to put up with an orchestrated trolling campaign, but Zeng still tries to be philosophical about their experiences in her video meditations.

At least Zeng is educated and has an international reputation. The migrant garment workers who strike for their back pay and unemployment compensation have no such advantages. They just believe in the justice of their cause. Such idealism is inspiring, but it is also alarmingly naïve. Indeed, the extent to which
Outcry captures the CCP socialist government catering to the interests of oligarchs makes the doc a genuinely incendiary expose. Thematically, these passages are much like Wen and Zeng’s previous collaboration, We the Workers, which gives a male-centric perspective on Mainland labor struggles. However, Outcry provides a fuller, more personal sense of the striking women’s lives and personalities. They are real individuals, facing real exploitation.

Outcry segues into the 2014 Hong Kong Umbrella protests. Frankly, it only skims the surface of the democracy movement, but it is logical progression. (Indeed, many of the student leaders have been women, like Agnes Chow and Joey Siu). It is hardly a definitive Umbrella protest doc, but the immersive scenes of the HK police assaulting the demonstrators are still absolutely chilling to watch. In between, animation director Trish McAdam provides some distinctive interludes that share dystopian elements of Metropolis and Terry Gilliam.

The factory workers seen in
Outcry are the closest thing the Mainland has to their own Norma Rae. The migrant workers could certainly use one. As our nation continues to beclown itself on the international stage, it is worth reminding ourselves and the world just how predatory and hypocritical the CCP regime continues to be. Highly recommended for its courage, integrity, and unvarnished reflection of Mainland life as it is really lived, Outcry and Whisper starts streaming this Friday (1/15), on