The danger is palpable as intrepid young filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan (aka Hooligan Sparrow) and her band of colleagues to southern China’s Hainan Province to protest against a principal who allegedly sexually abused six elementary-school girls. Marked as enemies of the state, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment, and imprisonment. Sparrow, who gained notoriety with her advocacy work for sex workers’ rights, continues to champion women’s rights by arming herself with the power and reach of social media. Wang becomes a target along with Sparrow, as she faces destroyed cameras and intimidation. Yet she bravely and tenaciously keeps shooting, guerrilla-style, with secret recording devices and hidden-camera glasses. By smuggling footage out of the country, Wang is able to tell the story of the revolutionary Sparrow and her fellow activists—and their seemingly impossible battle for human rights.

“Evocative, enlightening, enraging: Hooligan Sparrow shows us what life is like for one of China’s best-known activists, her family and friends, her allies. The abuses they endure—simply for trying to end injustices—powerfully portray the costs of defending human rights in China today.” – Sophie Richardson, China Director, Asia Division

Followed by a panel with filmmaker Nanfu Wang; Liesl Gerntholtz, Women’s Rights division director, HRW; and Sophie Richardson, China director, HRW. Moderated by Minky Worden, Global Initiatives director, HRW.