A real story about a Chinese sex worker who comes to Flushing, Queens, only to have her American dream crushed by the criminal justice system.
Ningyi SunWriterEat Bitter (director/co-producer/co-writer)
Genres:Drama, Crime, Truestory
Number of Pages:90
Country of Origin:United States
Language:English, Mandarin Chinese
DOX:AWARD at CPH:DOXCopenhagen
March 23, 2023
Encounters South African International Documentary Film FestivalCape Town
July 2, 2023
Special Mention for the Adiaha Award
A Chinese national, Ningyi Sun is a film director, writer, and actor and a grantee of Sundance, Hot Docs Blue Ice, Ford Foundation, IDFA Bertha Fund, and Chicken & Egg Pictures . Her documentary feature Eat Bitter about a Chinese construction manager and a local sand laborer pursuing happiness in a civil war in the Central African Republic was her first attempt at making a film. Eat Bitter had its world premiere at CPH:DOX in 2023 and has been selected for about 30 festivals, including Hot Docs, Vision du Reel, Shanghai International Film Festival, Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival, Doc Edge, DMZ, Dok Leipzig, DOC NYC and more. Before diving into the filmmaking world, she worked for the United Nations peace operation in the Central African Republic.
Having pursued opportunities in China, Brazil, Singapore, the Central African Republic, and now the US, like Song Yang, I’m not afraid to take risks and am driven by a desire to succeed. Yet I’ve become increasingly aware of the consequences of this ambitious life where I’ve been losing the close touch with my family and have left some beautiful relationships behind. By telling the stories of the Chinese diaspora, I look for understanding of this uprooted, though exciting life I have chosen.
Coming from a background in international relations, my first-ever attempt at filmmaking was when I worked as a United Nations volunteer in Bangui, the Central African Republic. There, I directed Eat Bitter, a feature-length documentary about a Chinese construction manager and a local sand laborer chasing success and happiness in a civil war in the African country. The film had its world premiere in March 2023 at CPH:DOX and has been selected for over 20 film festivals. From this incredible experience of directing and co-producing a documentary, I learned to value real life stories and emotional journeys of characters.
In the beginning of 2022, I ran into the investigative report by the New York Times of Song Yang’s story. Deeply empathizing with her drive as a Chinese immigrant seeking opportunities around the world, I wanted to turn her life story into a fiction film. I contacted Song Hai, Song Yang’s brother, who gave me confidence to work on this piece by telling me, “Don’t give up. I want people to remember my sister.”
After Song Yang was dead in November 2017 after she fell from a four-floor balcony during a police sting targeting her, a series of activism activities took place, including the initiation to pass the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act to fully decriminalize sex work in New York. However, in New York, even though few sex workers have been prosecuted after Song Yang’s death, the police continue raiding their massage parlors and confiscating the workers’ properties. For many immigrant sex workers, they continue struggling with poverty and get disappointed by the immigration system and crushed by police harassment and abuse.