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An operating room in a Chinese hospital. (New Tang Dynasty)
“Red Reign” is a stirring documentary film that follows the life of Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Canadian civil rights lawyer David Matas, and his work in exposing the horrific practice of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China.
When Masha Savitz was young, she never dreamed she would write, produce, and direct a documentary. She studied painting at Boston University and graduated in Fine Arts, and taught Hebrew to finance her painting passion. She eventually moved to Los Angeles and became a journalist, and with her passion for the arts, she found herself covering the entertainment industry for the Epoch Times.
Savitz became deeply inspired by filmmakers, especially by small independent documentary producers.
“I really ended up falling in love with the craft and seeing the importance of independent documentaries,” says Savitz.
A Vision Comes to Life
Savitz at one point interviewed David Matas, a Canadian human rights and immigration lawyer. She said a clear vision appeared to her of making a documentary film about Matas and his work. It was very real to her, she said, as though the film already existed, and she simply had to do the hard work to make it happen. She felt a distinct responsibility to bring the film to life.
In 2009, Matas was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. “At that point, I knew if I was going to make a film about him, this would be the time, because there was a lot of attention and interest in him,” said Savitz.
Matas’s book, which he co-wrote with former Canadian parliament member David Kilgour, “Bloody Harvest: Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China,” also came out in 2009.
Savitz visited with a friend who encouraged her dream and offered to produce the film. However, he later moved out of the country.
“Now I was the producer!” she said. “I always joke that my learning curve was a straight line up. That’s how it started.” Other friends also helped and supported Savitz during the four-year journey of completing the project.
But some people thought the project was too much for Savitz, who had never made a film before.
“There were many people who told me I shouldn’t be able to do this. And I didn’t listen to them. I couldn’t listen to them. I knew I had a mission to do,” she said.
Exposing a Human Rights Tragedy
The film goes beyond the life of Matas to fully discuss the organ harvesting issue.
To make such a tragic human rights story interesting, yet compelling, was not easy.
“I had a lot of challenges,” she said. “[I needed] to take a very difficult subject, that could be really hard to know about, and make it watchable, palatable, interesting, understandable, and compelling. [I wanted it to] satisfy the mind as well as the heart.”
“I knew if I was going to describe the worst parts of humanity,” she said, “I also wanted to show the best parts of humanity. And that was how I set out to film this movie.”
Savitz said all the people involved in the movie inspired her deeply, especially the doctors, who work around the world to expose China’s organ harvesting of Falun Gong prisoners.
“I’m really impressed and amazed because they already did good work in the world,” she said. “[They] save lives. But that’s not good enough for them. They see injustice being done, and they step it up. They step up and fight injustice in the world.”
Savitz said one of the biggest questions people asked her was, “‘We have our own problems here in the U.S., why bother with China?’ This whole film is to answer that question.”
She said it was important to her to show all the things that were already being done right now to help expose and end the practice of organ harvesting of China’s prisoners of conscience. She wanted to help people to transcend their feelings of intimidation, fear, and apathy about the issue.
“Even if it’s something small, you’ve done it. You’re making changes for the good,” she said.
“I think people absolutely, essentially need to understand that we both participate in the persecution [in China], knowing it or not, and are victims of the persecution, knowing it or not,” said Savitz. “My goal is to just make people aware, and then they can do whatever they feel moved to do.”