Experiencing Interruptions?

Falun Gong: In Their Own Words

It’s an early Sunday morning at Veterans Park in Otisville, upstate New York. At a time of year when the trees are still green, but the mornings start to have a slight chill in the air.

People of various ages, ethnicities and backgrounds slowly begin to fill up the otherwise empty park. They move quietly into a circle. With their eyes closed, they perform graceful, slow movements following meditation music from a loud speaker placed in the middle.

For the last 20 years you’ve heard journalists talking about them on the T.V. and radio. You’ve seen them holding rallies and peace protests around the world.

They are practitioners of Falun Gong.

Who are these people? What motivates them? And how might their struggle to expose the Chinese Communist Party have far reaching implications for all of us?

  • Mathias Magnason
  • Jan Lokos
  • Mathias Magnason
  • Levi Browde
    Executive Producer
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    Human Rights, Spiritual Journey
  • Runtime:
    19 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    November 10, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    5,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    China, United States
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital, Archive Footage
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Mathias Magnason

Mathias has loved storytelling his entire life. At the age of 5, he was obsessed with Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series. At age 18, his uncle—an award-winning cinematographer—offered him an internship. On the sets of movies and drama TV, Mathias entered the world of visual storytelling. For five years, Mathias assisted in various roles, from producing to directing, editing, lighting and sound design. He fell in love with the magic, spirit and tenacity of the industry.

Motivated to create films that would impact the world, Mathias went on his own. The United Nations hired Mathias for his directorial debut, where he shot a documentary about a cultural exchange between two schools in Sweden and Malawi, southern Africa. Working with the African children was so rewarding, they inspired Mathias to continue down the road of making humanitarian-focused documentaries.

In his second film—“Article 23”—Mathias produced a 20-minute documentary that told the story of Falun Gong, the persecuted spiritual group in China. At a time when no one else would touch the subject, Mathias was able to get it aired on broadcast TV in Sweden.

In 2010, Mathias moved to the US and founded Magnason Film to continue making impactful documentaries and to produce videos for commercial clients. Since its inception, Magnason Film’s videos and films have earned over 30 film festival awards and garnered millions of views across social media.

Tireless in his desire to improve his filmmaking craft, Mathias has been studying acting at the Michael Chekhov School of Acting since 2018. He initially began his acting study to improve his communication with actors, but Mathias has found a second love, having as much fun in front of the camera as behind it.

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Director Statement

For over 20 years, we have sought to tell the story of what is happening to Falun Gong in China. It's a story of terrible persecution, human suffering, and heroic, peaceful resistance.

Yet, because Falun Gong was so unfamiliar to us in the West, combined with a relentless propaganda campaign by Beijing to demonize the practice, after all these years, Falun Gong remains somewhat an enigma for many in the West. In fact, many remain aloof or even hostile to the practice based on what they have heard or read about them.

How to get out the real story of what these people believe? What motivates them? What are they trying to achieve? I have felt, for years, very little in our media made an honest and thorough attempt to answer these questions, and so I grabbed my equipment and headed to a small town in upstate New York. I wanted to talk to these people one-on-one; I wanted to hear their stories first-hand, look into their eyes, and perhaps for the first time, really try to understand them.

In many ways, as a director, this meant getting out of the way. No script. No preparation. No directing... just real people telling their stories as openly and clearly as they could. For me, it was an educational and humbling experience.