Abuse, harassment, and a laundry list of sexual crimes against women is a global problem. With its sordid past, China has made a small step in the right direction to address the issue of human trafficking and the plight of women post “One-Child Policy.” That bold step, you ask? The courageous act of not censoring director/producer Vivian Qu’s Angels Wear White, as she sheds light on a subject that the Chinese authoritarian state had for a long time cast in the shadows.
In a seaside resort in the city of Xiamen, Mia (Vicki Chen) is a young woman with no past, no family, and no identity. Orphaned as a child, thanks to the one-child policy. She works as a housekeeper at a local hotel with her co-worker Lili (Jing Peng). During the late shift, Mia takes over front desk duties as Lili slips away to be with her biker boyfriend, Jian (Yuexin Wang).
“…no one will believe them because of their youth and naivete.”
Late at night, a high-ranking commissioner checks into a hotel with two school girls in tow. Not wanting to cause trouble, Mia keeps her head down and does her job providing them two separate room. Later that night, Mia observes on the hotel’s security cameras, the commissioner entering the girls’ room for a “party.” Mia records the incident on her cellphone, making her the crime’s only witness.
Here’s where our frustratingly complicated lesson on prosecuting sexual crimes begins. The next morning the two girls, Wen (Meijun Zhou) and Xin (Xinyue Zhang), are questioned by school officials about the bruising on their legs and apparent cramping. The girls are silent in fear that no one will believe them because of their youth and naivete.
“…sheds light on a subject that the Chinese authoritarian state had for a long time cast in the shadows.”
Things are worse as Wen and Xin’s parents are of no help. The parents are pressured into complicity because the commissioner/perpetrator is the godfather of Xin and her father’s employer.
Wen’s mother blames her daughter for allowing this to happen to her. Her estrange father refuses to let the commissioner escape without justice.
Then there’s the police investigation led by Lieutenant Wang (Mengnan Li). The injustice is that he cannot prosecute based on Wen and Xin’s testimony alone. He needs actual proof because it involves a high ranking official.
“…many threads…in a hauntingly bitter tapestry…”
The advocate for the girls and justice is Hao (Ke She), a self-appointed attorney who specializes in human trafficking. She suspects that Mia might know what happened and makes several attempts to get her to testify. Hao is the sole figure dedicated to bringing justice on behalf of the victims.
Essentially a Chinese version of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, it tells a complex story with twists intended to thwart justice at every turn. Vivian Qu’s screenplay follows many threads and weaves them together in a hauntingly bitter tapestry. What should be a simple crime to litigate becomes an insidious story of the abuse of power and the re-victimization of victims. She exposes the global facts of sexual crimes against women, why they are rarely investigated and the forces that keep its victims silenced.
Angels Wear White is a sad story with small glimpses of hope coming from the attorney Hao furiously fighting for justice and the police lieutenant seeking the truth even though he is handcuffed by the law. Director Vivian Qu tells a big story with heart, hope, and a social conscious.
Angels Wear White (2017) Written and directed by Vivian Qu. Starring Vickey Chen, Meijun Zhou, Ke Shi, Le Geng, Weiwei Liu, Jing Peng, Yuexin Wang, and Mengnan Li. Angels Wear White screened at the 2018 Palm Springs International Film Festival and the San Francisco International Film Festival.
3.5 out of 5 stars