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Ask No Questions
by Karen Pecota

Filmmakers Jason Loftus and Erick Pedicelli bring to light the persecution of those in China who practice Falun Gong, a Buddhist meditation discipline in their documentary Ask No Questions. It is largely unknown in the West but in China this particular faith has grown exponentially in popularity. It's basically people trying to improve themselves through spirituality and exercise. The Chinese authorities banned the practice of Falun Gong and began a nationwide crackdown on those individuals who continued to pursue the faith. They were then labeled as a danger to society.

In 2001 self-immolation of seven Falun Gong followers took place in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. One woman died on site. Four others were badly burned. The story is told that all of these participants had been driven by Falun Gong to set themselves on fire. This shocking event made local and international news. The world was horrified at the visuals that went viral in the news media circles. Unfortunately, the news outlets stopped broadcasting the continued discrimination against the followers of Falun Gong; therefore, as the public awareness faded it became more difficult for human rights advocacy groups globally to come to their aid.

Loftus and Pedicelli present the background to this event with the story of Chen Ruichang. Chen is a journalist, Chinese state TV insider, a prisoner of conscience and a Falun Gong follower since 1998. He believes that the self-immolation event that happened in 2001 was staged by the Chinese government. Ask No Questions presents the case for Chen's conclusions that include the help of a former CNN journalist, Lisa Weaver who just happened to be present to witness and film the self-immolation in Tiananmen Square.

Loftus and Pedicelli begin to build the case for this true crime thriller acknowledging Chen's credentialed history within the Chinese government. Chen, a naturalized Chinese citizen, received an undergraduate degree in physics but completed a master’s degree in mass Communications at South China Normal University. He then began his career within the state-run media. Chen worked at Guangdong Television, one of China's four largest state-run networks. He joined the Communist Party, was promoted to a new director role, and later to the station's chief editorial office. Chinese propaganda is not foreign to Chen.

In 1998, Chen's television station covers the rapid growth of Falun Gong and deems it as a positive phenomenon. He takes notice of the faith and after some time becomes a follower. A year later the Communist leadership declares a ban on the practice. Chen is now torn between his two loyalties that are at odds with one another. For the first time his faith is in direct conflict with his employer--the Chinese government.

Chen is now a prisoner of his conscience and the state. Over the next decade Chen is arrested four times, put in a number of detention centers where they attempt to re-educate or brainwash so-called dissidents and put in forced labor camps. Chen's family members who live outside of China have brought their case to various government representatives including the U.S. and Australia to plead his case and release. The cost of discipleship for Chen has been high and bittersweet.