Nanfu Wang

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Nanfu Wang
Alison Klayman-Nanfu Wang-Justine Nagan - Hooligan Sparrow.jpg
Wang (center) with Alison Klayman and Justine Nagan in 2017
Born1985 (age 33–34)
ResidenceNew York City
OccupationDocumentary filmmaker

Nanfu Wang (born 1985) is a Chinese-born American filmmaker. Her debut film Hooligan Sparrow premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2016 and was shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2017. Her second film, I Am Another You, premiered at SXSW Film Festival in 2017 and won two special jury awards, and her third film, One Child Nation, won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Feature at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Early life[edit]

Wang was born on a small, rural farming village in 1985 in Jiangxi Province, China.[1] When Wang was 12 years old, she lost her father (he was 33 when he died) and was forced to drop out of school to work so she could support her family. Wang's family could not afford to send her to secondary education. Instead, she enrolled herself in a vocational school and eventually started working as a teacher for primary school-age children.[1]


With several years of work experience underneath her belt, Wang studied English Literature at a local University's Continuing Education Program. After that, she was granted a full fellowship from Shanghai University while enrolled in a graduate program for English Language and Literature. Later, she became interested in film and went back to school to study it. She studied communication at Ohio University and holds a master's degree in documentary from New York University's journalism school.[1]

Career and work[edit]

Hooligan Sparrow[edit]

Hooligan Sparrow was Wang's first feature documentary. It tells the story of Chinese human rights activists fighting to bring accountability to government officials who sexually assaulted several young girls. As Wang films the activists, she becomes the subject of harassment from state actors responding to Wang's efforts to document the work of the activists.

Wang has stated that she created the film because, “I was interested in many, many topics like the healthcare system and the educational system in China because I didn’t go to high school or college in China. Another topic that interested me was sex workers because, like I said, I grew up in a village and I had seen a lot of women from the village who didn’t have access to education and they end up becoming sex workers because they did not have skills, they did not have education and they were really discriminated against. So, I wanted to make a film about the poorest sex workers in the country, but I also knew that it would be hard to get access to them. I’ve known Hooligan Sparrow–her name is Ye Haiyan–for a long time through social media, but I had never seen her in person at the time.”[2]

When creating the film Wang was not aware that this would make her a target for government surveillance, later stating that she "knew very little about the activist world".[2] Wang has noted that her family and friends were followed and interrogated by officers who questioned whether or not they knew her, her whereabouts, and her current actions.[2]

Major contributions and awards[edit]

Wang's film “Hooligan Sparrow” screened at festivals in over 25 countries including Sundance, Hot Docs, Sheffield, Full Frame, and Human Rights Watch Film Fest.[3] Her film I Am Another You premiered at SXSW in 2017 and won the LUNA Chicken & Egg Award for Best Documentary Feature directed by a woman and the SXSW Special Jury Award for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling.[3] Wang is a recipient of the Sundance Documentary Fund and Bertha Britdoc Journalism Fund, Sundance and IFP supported filmmaker.[1] She was also placed on the shortlist for the 2016 Oscar for Feature Length Documentary for Hooligan Sparrow.[4] Wang was honored by the International Documentary Association with the 2016 Emerging Filmmaker Award.[3] Her third feature, One Child Nation, won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Feature at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Personal life[edit]

Wang is married and has one child (born c. 2017), and they reside in New York City.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d "Nanfu Wang". Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  2. ^ a b c Blyth, Antonia (2016-12-27). "'Hooligan Sparrow's Nanfu Wang On The Stacked Odds Of Exposing Corruption In China: "Every Day I Was Pretty Afraid"". Deadline. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  3. ^ a b c "ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS". I Am Another You. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  4. ^ Benutty, John (December 8, 2016). "Oscars 2017 documentary feature shortlist: 'Hooligan Sparrow' is a daring and timely look at political protest". Gold Derby.
  5. ^