Letter from Masanjia [movie review]

Letter from Masanjia is a powerful documentary about an American who woman finds a letter from a prisoner in a Chinese labour camp in a package from a Halloween decoration. Her discovery sets off a chain reaction, which ends up shutting down the labour camp system in China.

Letter From Masanjia

Letter from Masanjia Social Justice Documentary

Growing up near the ocean, I often imagined discovering a washed-up message in a bottle. But I didn’t ever think the letter would be from someone imprisoned in a labour camp because of his religious beliefs.

The letter Julie Keith discovers in a Made-in-China tombstone decoration was from political prisoner Sun Yi. Held in China’s Masanjia labour camp, Sun Yi’s letter describes how he and the other prisoners are subjected to torture and brainwashing because of their belief in Falun Gong. After verifying the letter and the camp are legitimate, Julie Keith works to find someone who would listen. After several stalled attempts, Sun Yi’s story goes viral.

about falun gong

Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline consisting of meditation and gentle exercises. Its core values are truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. In 1999, when the Chinese Communist Party outlawed Falun Gong, the goal was to eradicate the religion. Human rights groups estimate, at minimum, tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been sent to detention or worse. 

About the filming

Canadian filmmaker Leon Lee learned about Sun Yi when the letter went viral. Known as a Chinese dissident for his human rights work, Leon Lee reached out to his personal network of activists and dissidents in China to find the letter-writer. Three years into his search, the two connected. By this time, Sun Yi was released from the labour camp and eager for his story to reach a wider audience. The two formed a partnership and began filming.

Much of the documentary footage is taken by Sun Yi who learned how to use camera equipment over Skype from Leon Lee. For more than a year, Sun Yi films day-to-day life as a human rights defender in secret on a DSLR and iPhone. After shooting, he compressed and uploaded the footage to an encrypted site. Here, Leon Lee could retrieve the footage from across the Chinese firewall.

This is an incredible story of persecution, courage in the face of intense pressure and commitment to do the right thing no matter the personal cost.

Letter from Masanjia Synopsis

A woman in Oregon discovers an SOS note stashed in a box of Halloween decorations from Kmart. Her story goes viral and leads to the closure of China’s barbaric labour camps. News travels through China’s firewall and reaches the letter-writer, Sun Yi. A former Chinese prisoner who had been jailed for his beliefs, he now fears for his life and his family’s safety. Despite that, he’s determined to expose China’s human rights violations, whatever the cost.

In Letter from Masanjia, Sun Yi teams up with Peabody Award-winning director Leon Lee and takes you inside China’s terrifying police state through the eyes of a political prisoner. He uses hidden cameras to capture details of his torturous past while authorities remain hot on his heels. Letter from Masanjia reveals how the brave actions of a be-speckled engineer in China and a mom in the US led to major changes on the other side of the world.

OFFICIAL Trailer

On December 4, 2018, Letter from Masanjia was released by Gravitas Ventures and is available on iTunes, Amazon, Blu-Ray Disc, DVD, Tugg and Google Play.

Letter from Masanjia is a powerful documentary about an American woman who finds a letter from a prisoner in a Chinese labour camp in a Halloween decoration.

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