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September 2–8, 2016

Chicago Theatrical

Hooligan Sparrow

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Film still: Hooligan Sparrow Film still: Hooligan Sparrow Film still: Hooligan Sparrow


Nestor Almendros Award
for courage in filmmaking
Human Rights Watch
Film Fest
"A whistleblowing documentary made with fearless guerrilla cunning... Hooligan Sparrow is a literal and moving testament to how political protest works"
"Admirably gutsy"
  —New York Times
  —Village Voice
"Urgent, compelling... a quietly powerful first feature"
  —Los Angeles Times
"Other movies have more powerfully exposed the corruption of contemporary China, but few have so articulately confronted how women always seem to be the first citizens to have their wings clipped"
4 stars "It's miraculous that the film exists at all"
  —NewCity Chicago

Courageous super-activist Ye Haiyan ("Hooligan Sparrow") risks arrest and imprisonment to protest the abuse of girls and women by Chinese authorities. When she launches a campaign on behalf of six schoolgirls who were raped by their principal, she is quickly labeled an enemy of the state, finding herself chased across China by government thugs.

Filmmaker Nanfu Wang documents every step of this astonishing journey, and her own increasingly dangerous encounters with camera-smashing government agents. The danger is palpable as Wang struggles to protect her subject and her footage, crafting a riveting portrait of a revolutionary activist and her seemingly impossible battle for human rights. She bravely and tenaciously keeps shooting, guerrilla-style, with secret recording devices and hidden-camera glasses, while also exposing a startling number of undercover security agents on the streets. Eventually, through smuggling footage out of the country, Wang is able tell the story of her journey with the extraordinary revolutionary Sparrow, her fellow activists, and their seemingly impossible battle for human rights.

Hooligan Sparrow is politically engaged cinema at its finest, a searing indictment of government oppression in the world's largest country.

Directed by Nanfu Wang, China/U.S.A., 2016, 84 mins. In Mandarin and English with English subtitles.


  • Fri., Sept. 2 at 7 & 9 pm
  • Sat., Sept. 3 at 3, 5, 7 & 9 pm
  • Sun., Sept. 4 at 1, 3, 5 & 7 pm
  • Mon.–Thurs., Sept. 5–8 at 7 & 9 pm
Buy tickets


$10 general admission

$5 for Facets Members

The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. Call the Cinémathèque Hotline at 773.281.4114 for the latest schedule, showtimes and updates.

For all Cinémathèque inquiries, contact Charles Coleman at 773.281.9075 or

  • John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Artworks: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
  • Comer Family Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Alphawood Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation