“The first time Amy told me about her story, I said, this is very powerful, it will resonate directly with the kindness in people’s hearts. Amy sighed and said, maybe this is nothing more than just a story to other people, but to those in the story, we have endured so much suffering and hardship for all these years.” — Xiao Qian
There’s simply no way not to sympathize with a girl like Amy and to feel her pain. All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. The story of Amy that we’ve captured on film is but half of what she shared with us in person.
After Amy’s father was arrested, the first time she and her mother went to visit him, they had to travel very far to get to his detention house, and once there, they walked past a unusual room. Amy remembered seeing some odd-looking devices in the room. Later her mother told her those were instruments of torture.
Amy’s father served 1½ years for his first prison term. After he came home, there were police stationed outside every day. Amy would see them through the window every time she lifted the curtain. They could break into her home and take her father away any time. So her father left home, but the police were still there.
One day, mother took Amy to a park. It was a beautiful day. The sun was out, there was a gentle breeze, and the lovely willow branches swayed along. The figure of a man walked toward them. He looked so familiar. He wore sunglasses and had his cap pulled down to cover his face. The man obviously didn’t want anyone to recognize him. That was the last time Amy felt the warmth of her father’s hands. And then…and then he went back to prison for 15 years, as Amy said in the film.
As for her mother, the day she was taken away from Amy felt even more surreal. Amy had just come home from school, and she felt a stranger’s hand covering her mouth and whispered in her ear: “Be quiet. We are here to arrest your mother.”
Spending time with one’s parents and caring for them–every child should be rightfully given such an opportunity to fulfill their filial duties. Amy once wondered why something every child takes for granted has been taken away from her.
During our interview, she chanted two lines from a song: “Don’t say moonlight is like water drops; do you know those are your daughter’s teardrops?” As she uttered those words, tears flowed freely down her cheeks.
Amy has a delicate figure. Her landlord Xiao Qian said: Without the love of one’s parents, a child growing up by herself just doesn’t become tall and strong.
Yet she has a powerful handshake. When Director Ma and I shook her hand, we felt the steel-like strength from her.
Remember from the film that it were those delicate-looking hands that hauled over 1,000 lbs of goods onto supermarket shelves?
Remember it were those delicate looking hands that held the tailor’s scissors during the day and must carry heavy food trays in restaurants in the evening–life is not at all easy for her. To realize her dream profession in the arts, she must work jobs that take a heavy toll on her.
During our conversations with Amy about her father, the profile of a great man began to crystallize.
There used to be nothing special about Amy’s father, just an ordinary father who, like every other father that loves his daughter, hopes to protect her from harm’s way, inspire her on the arts, and guide her in growing up to be a good person.
But the moment when police broke into his home and took him away in 1999, his path in life took a wide detour from its original course.
Before the persecution of Falun Gong began, Amy’s father had received a long list of honors and awards, enjoying titles like “exemplary worker”, “model worker”, and “top ten”, etc.
After the persecution started, the same people that had given him those honors took everything away from him–honor, career, family, freedom, pride…and the rights to love his daughter.
He once painted a deer and named the painting “King of the Jungle.” Amy remembered that the deer in the painting had eyes that were full of kindness.
“Those who’re kind are the most powerful”–this is how Amy’s father understands the idea of “the mighty and the powerful.” He’s embodied it through his personal ordeals–repaying suffering with generosity, and the wielders of violence with forgiveness. It is his guiding principle over the past 20 years, and is the single-most precious gift of wisdom he wishes to pass onto his daughter.
Amy’s father once said to her from behind prison bars: “The things I’m doing right now is so that your generation will live in a better place in the future.”
Having once been through confusion and felt lost, Amy now understands better than ever why her father is willing to go through so much pain and suffering.
Christmas in the west is like the Lunar New Year to the Chinese. It is the single most important holiday of the year. It marks the end of a whole year of hard work and is when families from afar come together to celebrate.
We concluded our filming on Christmas eve. Because there were no transit services, we stayed for one more day in London. So on this Christmas day, all of us celebrated it together, including Yudong, Xiao Qian, and Amy. But of course, we celebrated Christmas with some Chinese customs–we had dumplings. Amy, I and another girl about twelve years old had a great time together, hopping around while wearing reindeer hats.
It was just a unbelievable thing to see: there’s every reason to think that someone like Amy who’s been denied parental care and love could easily isolate herself and taken a much more bleak view of the world. But here she was, with child-like innocence and a smile so pure and guileless. Within her there still lives a little innocent girl. When I saw Amy and the other girl singing Christmas songs and fully immersed in the moment, I took a picture. I said to Amy: you should show this picture to your parents. They will be happy to see your smiling face.
(This blog post is about the film Candlelight Across the Street. Click to watch the full film!)