Sandstorm was made to help reveal the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners currently occurring in China. The persecution is well-documented by Human Rights organizations and various governments around the world, but it is very difficult to get information out of China, as there are extensive methods utilized to block information from getting to the outside world and to the citizens within China.
Falun Gong practitioners in China have been risking their lives to provide the outside world with specifics of various persecution methods, torture techniques and death cases. All incidents, persecution methods and exchanges in dialogue portrayed in the movie are based on first-hand accounts that have been relayed by the practitioners from within China. The story is fiction, based on these first-hand reports.
I was inspired to write the script after practicing Falun Gong for about one year. I had thoroughly read the Falun Gong books and had also read the propaganda coming from China, aimed at justifying the persecution to the outside world. Propaganda stating that Falun Gong practitioners commit suicide, murder their families, disembowel themselves, set themselves on fire and numerous other claims go completely against the Falun Gong teachings of Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance. Some of these claims, especially the 2001 “self-immolation” on Tiananmen Square, initially had the effect of deceiving many people. Since the onset of the persecution, the effects of the propaganda have diminished, as Falun Gong is now popular around the world and has been shown to be peaceful and beneficial.
However, there are still many people inside China who are deeply deceived, as all information they receive is via the totally state-controlled media, such as Xinhua news agency. All television, print media and radio have been systematically condemning and demonizing Falun Gong since the persecution began in July 1999. This, combined with the blockade of information from the outside world, makes it very difficult for Chinese people to know what is happening even within their own country.
The initial audience I had in mind when writing the script were the Chinese police officers who are persecuting practitioners. Some of the police are deceived by the propaganda, some know the truth but carry out the persecution because they are afraid of losing their jobs and security, and some have been taking advantage of the situation, torturing practitioners and extorting money from their devastated families in exchange for the practitioners’ release. These activities occur under the endorsement of the state’s Gestapo-like “610 Office” and under the protection of comprehensive efforts to conceal these atrocities. Family members of practitioners are terrified for their own safety and often choose to silently grieve their losses rather than speak out and risk everything, leaving the public at large ignorant to the actual situation occurring in their own back yard.
Sandstorm is meant to shed light on these hidden atrocities by revealing the truth of the persecution of Falun Gong to people both inside and outside of China in the way that only film can.