On Friday, September 24, a Chinese consulate official in Houston made a surprise phone call to the founder/chairman of the Houston Multicultural International Film Festival (www.hmiff.com), Stephen Allen, and asked him to cancel the screening of one of the festival’s scheduled films.
The film, Sandstorm, is a Canadian-made independent film that depicts the torture and abuse of a Falun Gong student in China. This film has won several awards recently at film festivals in the U.S. (www.SandstormMovie.com).
The Houston festival’s chairman responded saying, “This is America. We have freedom of press and freedom of belief here.” The consulate official apparently proceeded to call the Houston Film Commission (http://filmhouston.texaswebhost.com/) and pressure them to block the screening. This attempt also failed.
On Saturday, Sandstorm won the Houston festival’s highest prize, “Best Feature Film.” Sandstorm Writer/Director Michael Mahonen was in Houston for the event.
Mr. Mahonen, an accomplished Canadian actor but 1st time director, will be at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival in Los Angeles from Sept 30-Oct 7. Sandstorm is screening in LA at the Fairfax Laemmle on Oct 5 at 10:30 pm.
On Monday, Sandstorm played at the Greenwich Film Festival (www.greenwichfilmfestival.org) as part of the festival’s Chinese Theme Night. The Greenwich festival reportedly received a phone call from an official at the Chinese consulate in New York saying that they would be at the screening there, but no one from the consulate was reported to attend.
Sandstorm will making its New York City premiere in November at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival (http://www.nyfilmvideo.com/index.html). Before then, it will be playing at 6 other film festivals across the U.S.
Ironically, all this transpired just ahead of a vote in the U.S. Congress scheduled this week on a Resolution (House Congress Resolution 304 – see H. CON. RES. 304, www.thomas.loc.gov) that directly criticizes the Chinese government and its agents in America for pressuring, harassing, and even assaulting Falun Gong students in the U.S. The Resolution names New Yorker Gail Rachlin, “…the Falun Gong spokeswoman in the United States, [whose apartment] has been broken into 5 times by agents of the Chinese regime since the regime banned Falun Gong in 1999 in China.” The Resolution also cites several examples of Chinese consular interference like what transpired in Houston on Friday.
For further information contact:
Joe Wang, NTD Films, Exec. Producer: 416-618-9264
Michael Mahonen: 908-285-3619