For this documentary film, winning a national award is notable, but only if it helps raise awareness of the atrocities on which it centers. Such is the case for director Brent Huffman and his documentary short film. Produced for VICE News, the piece spotlights the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown of Uyghur Muslims, deemed “genocide” by the U.S., and the efforts of one activist in Pakistan to rescue persecuted Muslims by way of an incredibly dangerous underground railroad.
“These wins mean a great deal to me and the team,” Huffman shared with SCREEN. “I hope it will help spread awareness about the issues in the documentary and ultimately help the subjects in the film.”
Without any further ado, let’s give our undivided attention to this vital and impactful documentary…
“I feel China has become this major superpower and these stories are not being told, especially
not in the US,” director Brent Huffman explained to SCREEN.
“The U.S. used to be a strategic partner and strong ally with Pakistan. Though in the last decade, that relationship has dramatically weakened. While the U.S. has turned its attention on itself, China has been busy recreating a massive new silk road pumping over four trillion dollars into new economic relationships with in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) represents the first leg of this ambitious project. This documentary for VICE shows where new alliances are happening and the human rights violations and violence that are arising from this new situation.”
Overcoming Challenges and Looking Ahead
As you might imagine, there were plenty of challenges for Huffman to overcome in the four years he dedicated to this project. “The biggest risks I faced were accessing the subjects in the film, and then gaining their trust to appear on camera. Even getting visas to Pakistan to visit the subjects was difficult, and there are many risks being a foreigner reporting on this topic. Once I gained the trust of the subjects in the doc, I then had to make sure they would be safe from retribution from China after telling their story.”
This project was funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Buffett Institute for Global Studies. Huffman is grateful to these organizations, as “without their support this project would not have been possible.”
“Ultimately, I hope the documentary can help subjects in the film and the Uyghurs by raising awareness to the humanitarian crisis they are facing.” If you are interested in helping the subjects of this documentary, Brent welcomes you to reach out to him directly. You can contact Brent by messaging him on his Twitter account right here.
Next up for Huffman: Brent is currently at work on a documentary in Yemen about the Yememi people’s work to save cultural heritage from destruction in the war.