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17 Ratings

Hooligan Sparrow

Directed by Nanfu Wang
China, United States, 2016


State surveillance. Harassment. Imprisonment. Human rights activist Ye Haiyan, AKA Sparrow, knew she faced these risks when she went to Hainan Province to seek justice for six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal.

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Hooligan Sparrow Directed by Nanfu Wang
One of the strengths of “Hooligan Sparrow” is that it makes those stakes real, visceral and urgent, partly by laying bare just how difficult it can be to make a documentary like this… “Hooligan Sparrow,” which Ms. Wang also shot and skillfully edited, has the pulse of a mainstream thriller but without the pacifying polish and tidiness.
July 21, 2016
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Wang’s film allows the public activist to be privately human, showing Ye at home with her lively daughter, sharing moments of friendship with other women activists or clearing brush and describing the hard rural lives of her family. By the final moments, Wang is alone, surrounded by men threatening to smash her handheld camera. Wang shot this film largely solo. If they smash her lens, there’s nothing for us to see. Silence is death, and she insists on living.
July 20, 2016
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Wang largely uses the film’s jerky, low-grade imagery to her advantage, amplifying the tension of Kafkaesque encounters with police, but her aesthetic has its limitations. Her assiduous approach to chronology results in a lack of narrative cohesion… But Hooligan Sparrow’s final revelation is an instance of pure journalism.
July 10, 2016
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