Lying in the school playground with her mom, seven-year-old Fuyao has no idea what her future holds. Her news anchor dad is doing forced labor. Her mom is not allowed to teach anymore. She and her mom are under house arrest in the school where her mom used to teach.
Fuyao's parents are victims of Communist China's new round of religious persecution against Falun Gong. A spiritual practice rooted in Buddhist tradition, Falun Gong is followed by millions and thus hated by the communist regime. Since July 1999, Falun Gong books have been banned and burned. The regime’s propaganda machine demonizes the practice. Hundreds of thousands of followers have been arrested. Many are tortured to death.
Bullied and humiliated, Fuyao thinks this is the worst situation in the world. But things are getting worse. Fuyao's mom has to leave her to avoid being arrested. She is later captured and thrown into prison to serve a seven-year term for distributing Falun Gong flyers and DVDs. Now, Fuyao is alone.
But this is not the story of a child who helplessly struggles in the cracks of society. Instead, despite the hardship Fuyao faces, she becomes a key source of inspiration for her scared mom, who is surrounded by murderers, drug dealers, and brutal prison guards. As her mom gradually regains her inner strength, she nurtures and safeguards her daughter Fuyao during her turbulent teenage years, using extraordinary means.
Through animation and live interviews, this film brings to life a true story of courage, love, and perseverance in the darkest of times.
The great Chinese philosopher Lao Zi writes, “True goodness is like water, in that it benefits everything and harms nothing.”
In researching the story of “Up We Soar,” the experience of this mother and daughter touched me deeply. The two faced severe persecution in China, but they responded with goodness and inner strength. In doing so, they transformed their surroundings and brought hope to those around them. This mother and daughter show that goodness, like water, is soft, but also powerful.
“Up We Soar” is an intimate story of strength and courage, but at the same time, it is also the story of Falun Gong practitioners in China today. When the Chinese Communist Party started to persecute Falun Gong practitioners in 1999, tens of millions of regular people from every walk of life, saw their lives turned upside down. To debunk the regime's ruthless propaganda campaign against them, practitioners created pamphlets and video materials. They distributed them to people at the risk of their own lives. Many were jailed, tortured, and killed.
Today, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have once again witnessed the Chinese regime persecute its people for speaking the truth. Yet it is precisely because such people, doctors and citizen journalists, dared to voice their concerns that the world learned about this pandemic.
“Up We Soar” is the story of a mother and daughter's love for one another. At the same time, the film represents the unbreakable spirit of the brave Chinese people who defy oppression every day.
I hope you will also be inspired by the courage and goodness you witness in this film.
Director and Producer
Yan Ma is a Toronto-based filmmaker, passionate about documentary films that speak to significant social issues in our world today.
He has taken several lead roles in film and digital arts in Canadian production companies.
Co-Producer and Co-Scriptwriter
Wenjing Ma is an award-winning documentary filmmaker based in New York. Having grown up in China, she has developed a deep understanding of modern China under the communist control, and has been sharing her insights with the audience through her films. “Between Life and Death”, her documentary exposing the live organ harvesting atrocities in China, was awarded 2011 Hugo Television Awards. Her film, "Transcending Fear: The Story of Gao Zhisheng", was selected into multiple film festivals in Europe and North America, including the 17th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in 2015.
Daxiong is one of today's most successful comic artists, editors and publishers in China, Europe and North America. He has received a great deal of recognition for his work in the industry, including first place at the Shanghai Animation & Comic Competition, top honours at the 33rd annual Angoulême International Comics Festival and Viewer’s Choice Award on ICON 29.
3D Animation Lead
Chuan Mu has worked in many areas of the film and television industry, including set design, acting, leading post-production colour grading and animation.
Originally from Ottawa, Samuel Bisson is a composer and cellist now based in Toronto, Canada. As a composer, Samuel is at home with a broad range of musical styles, from concert music to pop songwriting. He is at ease writing for solo instruments, to small chamber ensembles to full orchestral scores. His concert music has been performed by many ensembles throughout Canada. He has arranged orchestral accompaniments for several rock/pop bands and has written music for animated and live action films. He has score music for 6 feature films as well as numerous short films, including the National Film Board supported short film "Nuit Blanche", which went on to win the grand prize at LG's Life's Good FilmFest.
Kay's voice has been recorded in song on numerous music albums, and in spoken word for documentaries, educational programming, audio books, and advertisements. Kay is also a filmmaker, composer, and multi-instrumentalist.
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