all practical purposes, the act of blogging (something I do every day) is
illegal in China, Cuba, and Iran.
Despite violent state harassment, three women representing each country
have become superstars of citizen journalism.
Barbara Miller profiles this brave trio of bloggers in Forbidden Voices (trailer here), which screens
during the 2013 Brooklyn Film Festival.
the best known of the three, Yoani Sánchez blogs at: www.desdecuba.com/generationy. Her reports on Cuban political prisoners and
their mothers, wives, and daughters, dubbed the “Ladies in White,” have been
picked up around the world. Like many of
the peaceful protestors she covers, she has been savagely beaten by Castro’s
thugs. Ironically, her international
reputation provides her a measure of protection, but there is no mistaking the
real and present danger she lives with constantly. For example, during the course of Forbidden, Sánchez reports the
suspicious prison death of Orlando Zapata Tamaya and struggles to save the life
of hunger-striking Guillermo Fariñas.
brutal as the Castro regime might be, Zeng Jinyan probably faces an even more
perilous situation in China. A human
rights activist who blogs at: www.zengjinyan.wordpress.com, Zeng was crudely
blocked from leaving her apartment by Party enforcers, well before she was
officially sentenced to house arrest.
With her fellow activist husband Hu Jia incarcerated, Zeng deals with
the challenge of raising her young daughter by herself, in her state of captivity.
Seifi now lives in the safety of exile, but her blog has long been terminated
by Iran’s special internet secret police. She tries to support activists within
the Islamist state by publicizing their plight as best she can, but she fears
the reprisals her family might consequently suffer.
it is relatively easy to smuggle hidden cameras into Cuba, because Voices includes more coverage of Sánchez
than her blogging colleagues. Yet, the
images of Zeng are probably the most dramatic, including a brief interview with
the confined woman, shouting down from her window. This is not meant to short change Seifi. She has seen the inside of interrogation
chambers and her concerns for her family, friends, and country are genuine and
all three women are truly heroic, pure and simple. By shining a spotlight on Sánchez and Zeng,
Miller makes it more difficult for their oppressors to make them conveniently
disappear. When watching Voices, viewers will start to understand
conditions are far worse in each country than even the most steadfast critics
of Communism and Islamist Fundamentalism most likely realized. This is truly an often shocking but extremely
timely and compelling expose. Frankly, it
is hard to conceivably imagine how the upcoming Human Rights Watch Film
Festival could proceed without it, but give BFF all due credit for selecting
Voices is a case of
cinematic journalism at its finest.
These are stories that need to be told.
Miller also pays tribute to the blogging ideal, rather elegantly celebrating
the powerful and surprisingly poetic quality of their words. As a result, it is also quite rewarding when
judged as a film on strictly formalistic criteria. Very highly recommended, Forbidden Voices screens this Wednesday (6/5) at Windmill Studios
and Saturday (6/8) at IndieScreen as part of the “Magnetic” edition of the
Brooklyn Film Festival.
Labels: BFF '13, Documentary, Yoani Sanchez, Zeng Jinyan