Compelling festival documentary reveals lives of Chinese dissidents

The Doc Edge Festival will kick off at Christchurch cinemas on Wednesday.

It will then make its way to Auckland and Wellington before going online nationwide.

With 66 local and international films and 28 digital immersive events and installations, there will be a plethora of projects for audiences to soak up. 

Doc Edge Festival films will play at Hoyts EntX Cinema, Alice Cinema, and Lumiere Bernhardt.

More than 40 international film representatives will also visit Ōtautahi Christchurch from June 19 to 30 for selected films making their premieres in the 19th annual festival.

“This is the largest gathering of critically acclaimed filmmakers, industry professionals, and film subjects from around the world to assemble in New Zealand. It’s an amazing opportunity for Aotearoa’s filmmakers, audiences, and industry to connect,” said Dan Shanan, Doc Edge executive director.

Dissidents Photo: Supplied
Dissidents Photo: Supplied
Dissidents by Washington DC based filmmaker Chen Yi is one of the most anticipated films at the festival.

Yi Chen. Photo: Supplied
Yi Chen. Photo: Supplied
It follows three exiled Chinese activists who continue to fight for a democratic China and pursue justice while living in America.

Despite his sculptures being burned down or stolen, Chen Weiming, a human rights artist who works at Liberty Sculpture Park in the Mojave Desert in California, continues with his activism.

Chen emigrated from China to New Zealand in 1988 and is now a permanent resident of both New Zealand and the US. 

Wang Juntao is considered one of the world’s most renowned dissidents having been a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

He’s been accused of being one of the ‘black hands’, served time in prison and leads the Democratic Party of China from New York. 

Asylum seeker, Wang Chunyang, lives outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC fighting for justice after being forced from her home in China. 

This compelling observational documentary uses archival footage, personal interviews and an investigative style to reveal transnational repression and dangers for the three individuals. 

  • The full Doc Edge Festival programme can be found here. For more information visit the festival website.

Guests arriving for world film premieres are:

Kiwi Co-director Nathaniel Jackson (Australia) and his subject, Lisa Blair with their film, Ice Maiden, are available 22-28 June. The story of Australian adventurer Lisa Blair, as she attempts to be the first woman to sail solo, non-stop, and unassisted around Antarctica.

Director Lixin Fan (China) with his film, Invisible Summit, arrives on 25 June ahead of his screening on 28 June. Blind masseur Zhang Hong, driven by a lifelong pursuit of changing his fate, defies expectations and ventures to climb Mount Everest.

Kiwi Co-director Rowan Wernham (USA) with his film, Pistachio Wars, is available 17-30 June. A film about Beverly Hills farmers, marketing madness, water privatisation, drought, environmental collapse, and...war with Iran?

Director Toby Robson (UK) with his film, Poised, is available 22-30 June. Out of the ashes of loss, can one man use mixed martial arts to save young people from the toughest parts of our society?

Kiwi Director Luke Graham (Australia) with his film, Sharko, is available 25-30 June. Widely regarded as one of the greatest Rugby League players ever, kiwi hard-man Mark Graham was feared off and, on the field, though little knew the real man or the destruction behind his success. This is an intimate look at the life of a father, a son and the cost of greatness.

Director Michael Dillon (Australia) with his film, The Great White Whale, is available 25-30 June. Five times it tried to kill the first team that tried to climb it. But back they sailed, through the worst seas in the world, to try again, this time with the legendary Bill Tilman as skipper. A gripping tale of both expeditions, told by those that were there.

Director Sean Langan (UK) with his film, The Other Side, is available 26 June-1 July. Journalist Sean Langan goes into Russia’s heart of darkness, travelling inside Putin’s war on Ukraine in occupied Donbas. An intimate look at the human side of Russia’s war rarely seen in Western media.

Director Yariv Mozer (Israel) with his film, We Will Dance Again, is available 22-29 June. 7 October, the day the music stopped, and the world changed.

Directors Matt Alesevich and Hemal Trivedi (USA) with their film, Yatra, are available 25-30 June. Haunted by her mother’s death, a young Indian-American medical student travels back to India to find closure. While there, an unexpected encounter with a young indigenous girl makes her confront her past and question her future.

International film premieres

Director Subina Shrestha (Nepal) and her subject Devi Khadka with their film, Devi, are available ahead of their screening on 27 June. Nepal's Civil War ended in 2006, but not for Devi; rebel warrior, mother and sexual violence survivor. As those in power try to erase rape from the history of the war, Devi has to battle her own demons before she can begin to build a movement to fight for justice.

Director Yi Chen (USA) with her film, Dissidents, is available 22 June to 2 July. An artist's sculpture is burnt down, a protester is charged with a criminal case, and a democracy movement is violently attacked. Three exiled Chinese dissidents fight for democracy against a superpower through art, petition, and grassroots organising. But not even exile is safe.

Director/Subject Nanhsi Yuen, producer Zhiying Deng (China) and are attending with their film, Girl of Wind, and are available 25-30 June. Yang Yang, a lonely deaf girl, often climbs with her bare hands-on top of 500 tall buildings in the city. By chance, Nanhsi, met her and the two started to share a special life journey together.

Kiwi Director Marcelle Lunam (Australia) with her film, Habana Shakes, is available 26-30 June. A rhythm-filled odyssey follows five young Cubans visiting Havana.

Director Madeleine Hetherton-Miau (Australia) with her film, Mozart’s Sister, is available 22-26 June. The film reveals and tests controversial new evidence by music experts and forensic handwriting analysts to find if Maria-Anna Mozart played a part in well-known compositions attributed to her brother Wolfgang Mozart.

Director Michael Rowley (USA) with his film, Racing Mister Fahrenheit, is available 19-30 June. Bobby Haas may have made billions selling fizzy drinks, but now retired, nothing will quench his desire to have his legacy be successfully breaking a land speed record at Bonneville.

Director Sandi DuBowski (USA) with his film, Sabbath Queen, is available 26-30 June. Filmed over 21 years, the film follows Amichai Lau-Lavie from drag-queen rebel to rabbi, as he radically reinvents religion and ritual and stands up for peace.

Director Dan Goldberg (Australia) with his film, The Jewish Nazi?, is available ahead of his screening on 30 June. Dubbed “The Mascot”, Hitler’s youngest soldier was in fact a Jewish boy who hid his secret in Australia for 50 years before embarking on a rollercoaster ride for his true identity that culminates with a blistering sting in the tail.

Co-director Michele Gentile (Germany) with his film, War and Justice, is available 24-29 June. For the last 25 years, the International Criminal Court's mission has been to end the most serious crimes against humanity. But can war crimes in war be prevented at all?

Asia Pacific film premieres

Director Tal Barda (France) and her subject Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish (Canada) with their film, I Shall Not Hate, are available 25-30 June. Surrounded by violence and oppression, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish chose education and tolerance. When war claimed his daughters, he responded with forgiveness. But peace must be a two-way street.

Director Petr Lom and Producer Corinne Van Egeraat (Netherlands) with their film, Ko au te Awa, ko te Awa ko au – I Am The River, The River Is Me, are available 13-30 June. A canoe trip down the Whanganui River in New Zealand, led by a Māori elder, awakens spiritual belief and practice, and becomes a call to action to draw closer to nature and fight climate change through a fundamental value shift.

Director Stéphane Carrel (France) with his film, Resilient Man, is available 25-30 June. Steven McRae was the principal dancer at London's Royal Ballet. In the middle of a performance, his Achilles heel ruptured. Refusing to see this as the end of his career, he sets out to return to the pinnacle of his art. A journey into the demanding world of dance and the daily life of a man fighting both physically and mentally to regain control of his destiny.

Producer Radoslawa Bardes (Poland) with her immersive project, Murals, is available 27 June - 2 July. This is an immersive visual experience that uses cutting-edge 3D scanning to place viewers face-to-face with the war devastation in Ukraine. The not-for-profit art project follows captures of Banksy’s artwork left on the rubble of people’s homes, schools, and infrastructure.

Australasia film premieres

Director Vanessa Hope and producer Ted Hope (USA) with their film, Invisible Nation, are available 26 – 30 June. Director Hope’s intimate view of the presidency of Taiwan’s sitting head of state, Tsai Ing-wen, as she fights for the future of her nation.

Director Alan Lau (Hong Kong) and producer Nancy Tong with their film, Rather Be Ashes Than Dust, are available 25-30 June. Chronicles of a journalist-filmmaker's struggle with his conscience while witnessing intense police brutality against protesters during the 2019 movement in Hong Kong.

New Zealand film premieres

Kiwi Director Sally Aitken (Australia) with her film, Every Little Thing, is available 3-4 July. One woman's tireless work caring for the hummingbird population in Los Angeles.

Director Hasan Oswald (USA) with his film, Mediha, is available 22-29 June. Mediha was 10 years old when ISIS raided her Yazidi village and sold her into sexual slavery. This is her quest for justice.

Co-director Debra Aroko (USA) with her film, Searching for Amani, is available ahead of the screening on 29 June. A son investigates his father’s mysterious murder within the boundaries of one of Kenya’s largest wildlife conservancies, only to have an encroaching drought reveal the collateral damage of a warming world.

-RNZ and Star News