The Troubled Timeline of Ying Liang’s When Night Falls

Film Still

When Night Falls (2012, dir. Ying Liang)

This week filmmaker Ying Liang posted on his Facebook page an English language account of the travails he has faced so far this year concerning his new film, the award-winning feature When Night Falls. We have reposted the timeline below as it is a detailed and fascinating account of the extent of intervention that has been exerted to restrict the exhibition of the film. For more background on the film, read Richard Brody’s recent review in The New Yorker, as well as “Nothing about Cinema, Everything about Freedom“, Ying Liang’s statement published after the initial attempts to block screenings of his film in spring 2012.

What We Can Predict Can Never Equal to What Happens in the Reality
—- Timeline About “WHEN NIGHT FALLS Case” Update

May 15, 2012
My wife Peng Shan posts my statement, “Nothing about Cinema, Everything about Freedom“ on her weibo account, and it is deleted the same day. Lou Ye posts support on his weibo: “As a film director, to learn that another film director is being harassed, threatened and detained for a film he made — what do you do? I don’t know about other people, but I would call out: let that director (Ying Liang) return home safely and without threat!” — this post was deleted on May 16.

May 16, 2012
Lou Ye posts again: “Nothing about Cinema, Everything about Freedom”? I cannot totally agree with the latter opinion about the importance of cinema—- at least I don’t “simply”, “solely” or “absolutely” believe in such a statement. But there are people who insist that films could be so important that they would do everything to prove and guard this claim via public power and public instrument, which corners me, a negligible filmmaker, to a political or politicized predicament.

May 21, 2012
Cui Weiping posts support on her weibo: “Got a message from Lou Ye at Cannes, he appealed to everybody to post ‘let a director return home safely and without threat’ on weibo in support of the independent director Ying Liang. With feature films such as Taking Father Home, The Other Half, Good Cats, Ying Liang is a thinking independent director who has been invited to many international film festivals and frequently awarded. He was harassed recently because of his latest film When Night Falls.”

With the help of one of my friends, Wang Jingmei [the real life subject of the film] watched When Night Falls.

May 23, 2012
A Journalist in Cannes posts on weibo: “I asked Lou Ye, if you started a support campaign on weibo, would many Chinese directors follow you? He said, there wouldn’t be many. So please prove him wrong with your own actions.”

July 6, 2012
My wife Peng Shan hears from a friend that Shanghai national security officers went to Chongqing University, where she studied, to investigate her files.

July 16, 2012
In the evening, received confirmation from the Hong Kong Immigration Department that they had extended my Hong Kong visa to November 30. But since the old visa would have expired on July 17, I had already booked a hotel room in Bangkok.

August 7, 2012
Four crew members of When Night Falls arrive at Festival del film Locarno, we hold a poster reading “please give Wang Jingmei a reasonable explanation” during the photo call.

When Night Falls has its International Premiere at the festival, with an audience of more than 2000.

August 12, 2012
When Night Falls wins best director and best actress awards of Festival de film Locarno.

Lou Ye posts support: “Congratulations to Ying Liang’s film When Night Falls, it won the best director and best actress awards of 65th Festival de film Locarno. Everyone has the right to make a film as well as the right to show it, unless you give up the right yourself, or unless you get used to being silent.”

August 15, 2012
Almost all information about When Night Falls at Locarno, including Lou Ye’s post and a report by a journalist, has been deleted.

A Chinese newspaper asks to interview [When Night Falls actress] Nai An, cancels after they learn about the situation.

Someone calls me, says he is a friend of a relative of mine, and wants to meet. Very soon, I receives a SMS from a reliable source, says “this is an unidentified guy, better keep away from him.” Therefore I refuse his appointment, and never answer his calls again.

August 16, 2012
Lou Ye posts again: “posting again after the invisible deletions: everyone has the right to make a film as well as the right to show it, unless you give up the right yourself, unless you get used to being silent (and I’m ready for any other forms of deletion).” “invisible deletion” is one of the “management methods” of Weibo: after they delete a post, the user himself can still see it from his account, while others can’t.

My family in Shanghai hear from someone inside, that my case is still ongoing, and the police are still waiting for me to be “brought to justice”. At the same time, they don’t want me to go back and “bring them trouble”, either.

August 17, 2012
The Douban page of When Night Falls submitted with it’s English name on July 10 by a friend online has been deleted again. He tries again, but they delete it again right away. I suggest he not try any more.

August 18, 2012
The Chinese film critic website Cinephilia posts an article “When Night Falls: the Dark Blue Ink-stain”(http://cinephilia.net/archives/14999). this is the only long review in Chinese so far.

August 21, 2012
Our friend in Chengdu tells my wife Peng Shan that we couldn’t go back before the 18th Congress of the Communist Party, and this is inside “information” from the Sichuan Police.

September 11, 2012
The Chinese Independent Film Festival (Nanjing) offers to show When Night Falls in Nanjing. I remind them about the “danger” of the film, they say they’ve received the “blacklist” from state security, and When Night Falls is not on it. I send a DVD copy to them, ask them to discuss it first, and make the decision based on the film itself.

September 13, 2012
The North American Premiere of When Night Falls shows in Toronto. During the Q&A section, a Chinese man recording us with his iPad was pointed as a very likely Chinese government worker.

September 23, 2012
My mother tells me that government workers came to her door to warn her that I’d had contact with hostile forces in Hong Kong. They claimed that they were collecting evidence of my speech to charge me with “inciting subversion of state power”, and implied again that everything would be fine if I change my nationality.

October 14, 2012
Hear from Chinese Independent Film Festival that they decided to show When Night Falls on November 11st, their closing day. I start to rearrange my schedule and travel plans right away, in order to go back to the mainland and attend the screening.

October 19, 2012
Hong Kong Asia Film Festival informs me that a Hong Kong media outlet canceled a scheduled interview, the reason being that I’m on the blacklist of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong S.A.R.

October 21, 2012
I’m attending Golden Horse Film Festival in Taipei in November, too. So I’ve discussed and rearranged my schedule with Golden Horse, and booked the return tickets from Taipei to Nanjing through Hong Kong. But I’m informed by Nanjing: polices came to threaten the boss of the cinema, the screening have to be canceled. P.S. It is said that it’s a deputy director of a security bureau who is taking care of this.

October 23, 2012
More confirmed information from the Chinese Independent Film Festival (Nanjing): they can’t even put information about the film on their catalog. A friend from Nanjing sent me a e-mail: “what we can predict can never equal to what happens in the reality, safety first! Film is dear, Life is dearer. The environment will be better in the future, and we can make more films then.”

Ying Liang
24th Oct., 2012 Hong Kong

  • Laura

    Hi Kevin,

    Do you know of any way those in mainland China can see all/part of When Night Falls? A link we can access through VPN perhaps?