Violence can be swift and merciless when a population is dehumanized, and the resulting carnage can be devastating. When crimes against humanity occur, it often falls to outside voices to raise the alarm and put a spotlight on the plight of the persecuted.
To this end, film is a powerful tool in the hands of the conscientious filmmaker.
“Ravage,” a short film by Peabody Award-winning director Leon Lee of Vancouver-based Flying Cloud Productions, sheds light on the crime of killing a human being for the sole purpose of profiting from the sale of his or her organs. The film offers a snapshot of how the state-led, systematic persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China has fostered an environment that enabled the ultimate evil: mass killing of prisoners of conscience for profit.
Available online for free, “Ravage” is based on an eyewitness account of the brutality experienced by a young woman who falls prey to China’s barbaric prison medical system.
A filmmaker makes difficult choices when creating a short. Without context, short films can come off flat and miss the mark, especially when the subject matter demands explanation.
With “Ravage” the details are sparse but lucid and provide enough context to understand the scope of the film. In the end, the viewer is not left with a question of “what” but of “why.” In fact, with its absence of detail and context, the film gains an immediacy that demands attention.
The film stars Anastasia Lin as a young mother forced to choose between her conscience and her life, when circumstances bring her into the sphere of a sadistic doctor operating within China’s medical system.
Lin gained fame as Miss World Canada and later as a human rights advocate who used her beauty queen platform to speak out against rights abuses in China. As a result, she was effectively barred from entering China to compete in the Miss World finals in November 2015 by being denied a visa. With her backstory, Lin is a fitting and talented choice to give the story its substance.
The film is carried by Lin’s raw emotion and authenticity as someone facing the impossibly difficult task of reconciling their faith with the fact that torture and death are the consequences. There is something beautiful and sacred about the selfless act of following one’s conscience, and that noble spirit comes across in the film.
The violence and turmoil of the first half unravel in an unsettling resolution that questions the complicity of those in the West who self-servingly support this crime as organ recipients—even when their motivations are well intentioned.
As the full implications become apparent, it is clear that Lee succeeds: the film’s revelations are enough to inspire further investigation.
That Falun Gong practitioners are subject to inhumane forms of torture has been well documented. The implied torture methods in “Ravage” are clear enough for their horror to register. Female Falun Gong practitioners are subject to the most depraved forms of sexual abuse. It’s an aspect of brutality that the film isn’t afraid to depict.
Evidence and independent investigations leave little doubt that state-sanctioned organ harvesting is taking place in China. It’s an uncomfortable subject. Those who receive organ transplants in China are inadvertently creating a demand for the supply of human organs—a supply that directly correlates with the death of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience.
It’s unnerving to witness a doctor kill and give life at will in a system that rewards this sadistic crime. Most people would attribute this level of depravity to a pathology, the act of a lone psychopath.
When it happens on a scale as large as this—with an estimated 60,00 to 100,000 illegal transplants taking place per year since 2000—it is the result of a diseased society where morality is no longer at play. China’s communist regime will have to face the fact that such acts have been allowed to develop and thrive under its watch. Communism has yet to produce a healthy society, and the ideology has left its mark on China by warping the moral sense of justice to a point that a large population of Falun Gong practitioners is viewed as nothing more than organ banks whose life and death are measured solely in financial gain.
“Ravage” serves as an important reminder that one of the West’s largest trading partners is committing unspeakable acts against its own citizens. A comparison to Nazi Germany is not frivolous here. Humanity’s capacity for evil is deserving of reflection even for those of us who could never fathom committing such an act.
Thanks to grassroots efforts in China and abroad, the full extent of the Falun Gong persecution is being brought to light. Artists such as Lee have used cinema as an effective vehicle to raise awareness and they have been succeeding in a significant way. Lee won the prestigious Peabody award for his documentary “Human Harvest” which follows two Nobel Peace Prize nominees as they investigate the chilling source of China’s illegal, multi-billion-dollar organ transplant industry. “Ravage” revolves around similar themes. The difference is in the impact.
This type of crime is hard to bury. When it does come to light and those responsible are brought to task, the reverberations can cause even the most brutal of dictatorships to crumble.
Lee has done an admirable job bringing awareness and a sense of immediacy to the crime of killing for organs in China. The intensity and gravity of the film make it a very important short. At the end of the day, “Ravage” is riveting cinema with a potent message.
Ryan Moffatt is a Vancouver-based arts reporter, musician, and pop-culture pundit.