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The Exiles

Sundance Film festival 2022 Priemer

by Valerie Cameron

Not Yet Rated


She is who she is and she has no apologies. “We were all young and crazy”, I am talking about Documentary Filmmaker Christine Choy.

Directors Violet Columbus and Ben Klein brought the lively, truthful and refreshing story of Christine Choy to Sundance in a way she had never been before. She has submitted many documentaries; she has been a jury member and in 1997 she won Cinematography Award for "My America...or Honk If You Love Buddha". Now we get to see her Infront of the camera, and get a unique look at her story and the story of The Exiles.

From the minute you here her voice and then see her on screen Christine Choy is captivating. It is not often you see someone who knows exactly who they are, has no apologies about it and is so likeable. In a time when there were not a lot of female filmmakers she came in also as a Chinese-American filmmaker and documentarian. She quickly notices that at places like The Sundance Film festival and the Academy Awards, there is no one who represents her or many other minorities. She quickly got involve. She seemed to keep getting involved in a lot of movements.

On June 4th 1989 in Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government declared martial law and sent the People's Liberation Army to occupy parts of central Beijing. Thousands of people were killed and many were injured. '89 Democracy Movement, the protestors, mainly students were killed, hunted and most fled the country never to return.

Choy, not knowing the first thing about these people or the movement was sent to cover it in the US. She had no Idea what she was doing or who these people were, but she knew how to tell a story and capture important moments.

In 1989 she started to film the leaders of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests who escaped to political exile following the June 4 massacre. Unfortunately, Choy never finished that project, they ran out of money. 27 years after she shot the footage she travels to Taiwan, Maryland, and Paris in order to share it with the dissidents who have never been able to return home. Leading to the 30-year anniversary with survivors speaking on the House floor of the United States Congress. Most of them with heartfelt testimonies and some calling out the United States for not helping enough.

Being able to see mass amount of original footage mixed with Choy’s personal interviews with the people she interviewed twenty-seven to thirty years later is an intriguing time capsule. I say that because this story seems to be held in time. Some much happened and yet nothing happened after the fact. A time and people forgotten by many, left out of their own counties textbooks and swept under the rug by a controlling government force. The juxtaposition of a woman who has been so free with her words and way of life put in charge of tell the story of survivors fighting to live a life free like her is compelling

This is a beautiful way to tell the story of such an important moment in history. At 70 years old Christine Choy still has so much to say. On a personal note, it is films like this and filmmakers like her that inspired me to go to film school. To be able to tell a story, to tell stories that many people would hear otherwise. This is why documentaries are important.

It’s real, it’s honest and it’s a must watch.

Grade: A


  • Director(s)Ben Klein Violet Columbus

  • Producer Maria Chiu Ben Klein Violet Columbus

  • Editor Connor K. Smith

  • Executive Producer Steven Soderbergh Chris Columbus Eleanor Columbus

  • Associate Producer Jess Eagan

  • Animation Lewie Kloster Noah Kloster

  • Directors of Photography Connor K. Smith Alexander J. Hufschmid

  • Co-Editer Colton Fordyce

  • Assistant Editor Vivian Z. Hu Ryan Mulhern

  • Composer Onyx Collective

  • Sound Mixer Phillip Kim

  • Year2021

  • Category Feature

  • Country United States

  • Language English

  • Run time 95 min

Sundance Film Festival description

Debut feature, directors Violet Columbus and Ben Klein follow Choy, deftly moving between her original footage of Chinese exiles in the immediate, traumatic aftermath of Tiananmen and the present day’s clear-eyed realization that the past 30-plus years have not fulfilled their hopes and dreams for their country and themselves. Driven by the iconoclastic voice of Choy and illuminated by the power of film to both traverse and destroy the experience of time, The Exiles brings modern history and the struggle for democracy to human scale by considering the individual costs of a life dedicated to self-expression.

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