In March 2002, a state TV station in China was hijacked by members of the outlawed spiritual group Falun Gong. Their goal was to counter the government narrative about their practice. In the aftermath, police raids sweep Changchun City, and comic book illustrator Daxiong, a Falun Gong practitioner, is forced to flee. He arrives in North America, blaming the hijacking for worsening violent repression. But his views are challenged when he meets the lone surviving participant to have escaped China, now living in Seoul, South Korea.

Director Jason Loftus cleverly weaves present-day footage with 3D-animation inspired by Daxiong’s art, which makes for a continuously fascinating watching-experience. As someone who didn’t know anything about the events discussed in Loftus’ incredibly poignant film, a rollercoaster of emotions didn’t feel out of place. It’s insane to think this happened 20 years ago, and still these types of events take place on a regular basis in China.

I had some trouble getting into the 3D-animation style of Eternal Spring, as it isn’t my favourite type of animation, but the captivating, yet harrowing eyewitness accounts of persecution and the perseverance of the survivors that fought back for religious freedom made it all worthwhile. Cinema has become such a powerful tool to tell stories that otherwise wouldn’t see a wider audience, so to see this documentary run the festival circuit is an important step forward to screw over censorship used to benefit authoritarian governments.

Eternal Spring can’t be judged solely on what’s being portrayed here, without judging the entire picture of the Falun Gong’s history as a spiritual movement as it is much more complex, but presented to us as it is – a political thriller and human rights documentary – it’s one hell of an important film.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Eternal Spring is currently showing at Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. More info and tickets HERE

Reviewed online (screener provided by festival), July 24, 2022. Running time: 86 min.

PRODUCTION: A Loft Sky Pictures production. Producers: Kevin Koo, Jason Loftus & Yvan Pinard. Executive producer: Masha Loftus.

CREW: Director: Jason Loftus. Cinematography: John M. Tran. Editing: David M. Schmidt. Music: Thomas William Hill.

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