Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reworked Falun Gong documentary to air on CBC

UPDATE

CBC plans to air a slightly reworked documentary on the Falun Gong on Nov. 20, ending a rift that forced the film's prime-time English debut to be abruptly cancelled this past week.

"I don't think we will be shooting new footage, but there will be some new material and new narration," Peter Rowe, director of Beyond the Red Wall: The Persecution of Falun Gong, said in an interview.

Previously, the director had insisted he would not re-edit his film after CBC Newsworld yanked it at the last minute. But yesterday he said the requested fixes were relatively minor.

"As it turned out," he said, "the film is not going to be diminished nor are voices in the film going to be muted."

The Falun Gong is a spiritual movement based in China that Beijing considers a cult and security threat. In Canada and a host of Western countries, the regime and the movement wage a constant public-relations war against each other.

Beyond the Red Wall will explore allegations of torture, labour camps and executions of Falun Gong members in China, but clarify sources it uses to delve into allegations that China harvests organs from dead prisoners.

The documentary will also fine tune the way it portrays protesters who burned themselves alive in Tiananmen Square, self-immolations that Beijing and the Falun Gong accuse each other of perpetrating.

The unedited film had already aired once on Radio-Canada and once on English CBC, albeit in a predawn timeslot that few viewers saw.

The CBC, which sponsored production of Beyond the Red Wall, had been promoting its prime-time English debut before suddenly rerunning a documentary on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf this past Tuesday.

Because Chinese diplomats had raised concerns about the film's content to the CBC just before broadcast, Falun Gong supporters cried foul about the broadcaster's decision to pull the piece and blamed Beijing for political interference.

The CBC has insisted it wanted to ensure the piece was as solid as possible before airing it in prime time. "We just wanted to ensure it was journalistically rigorous," spokesman Jeff Keay said yesterday.

The film's director said that, in the end, everything worked out for the best. "Of course, I'm pleased the attention paid will mean far more Canadians will learn about the persecution of the Falun Gong," Mr. Rowe said.