IDFA Special: The Exiles

Film screening + extended interview with the directors

In 1989, the peaceful student protest in Tiananmen Square was ruthlessly crushed by the Chinese regime. At the time activist Chinese-Korean Christine Choy, who has lived in America since she was a teenager, began work on a documentary about three Chinese people involved in the demonstration who fled to the United States.

She interviewed a student leader, an academic and a businessman who supported the protest, but never finished the film. Thirty years later, she revisits the interviewees. The difference between then and now is poignant. They started as boys burning with idealistic flames and dreaming of a democratic China, but became old pessimistic realists in the meantime. Their family never saw them back home, repression has only increased, and the West disappointed them as much as China for valuing trade more than human rights.

After the film, we talk with the filmmakers Ben Klein and Violet Columbus about the bygone dream of a democratic China and the pitfall of prioritizing trade over ethics, resulting in uncontrollable geopolitical events.

The Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, when the Chinese regime ruthlessly crushed a peaceful student protest in Beijing, was not reason enough for most Western politicians to restrict trade with China or even make appropriate statements.


Ben KleinFilm director
Violet ColumbusFilm director