Seattle International ’19 Review: ‘A Family Tour’ Mourns the Price of Political Dissidence

Chinese director Ying Liang is perhaps most well-known for the personal price he paid for producing When Night Falls (2012), a docudrama which sealed his permanent exile from his homeland. A scathing critique of China’s totalitarian regime, When Night Falls focused on the death of Yang Jia, a man who was arrested and horrifically beaten by the police for riding a bicycle without a license. After repeated harassment from the authorities, Jia eventually stabbed six policemen to death and was given the death sentence. When Night Falls, or its Mandarin translation I Still Have Something to Say (我还有话要说), is focalised from the perspective of Jia’s grieving mother. By directing this docudrama, Liang was viewed to be sympathetic towards political dissidents in China and hence, was forced to pay the price with exile. He now lives in Hong Kong.

Acting as a follow-up to When Night Falls, Liang’s A Family Tour (自由行, 2018) works as a semi-autobiographical film on the consequences his exile has had on his loved ones who still reside in China. If I Still Have Something to Say is a testament to his legacy of active political dissidence, A Family Tour is a quietly devastating rumination on whether this dissidence is actually worth the personal sacrifice. With Liang’s latest film, there is a very real sense that there is nothing left for art to say. If the artist has to lose their loved ones in the name of a futile activism, there comes a point when art becomes a purely selfish endeavour rather than a heroic one.  Continue reading “Seattle International ’19 Review: ‘A Family Tour’ Mourns the Price of Political Dissidence”