VisionTV documentary investigates China's religious revival

    TORONTO, June 30 /CNW/ - Whether it's the repression of Tibetan
Buddhists, the persecution of Christian evangelists, or the suppression of
local folk beliefs, religion tops the list of tough-to-discuss topics in
    With the subject deemed off-limits to journalists, China's vast
population of religious believers - by some estimates as many as a billion -
has been widely overlooked. Until now.
    Even though the Chinese government is still accused of suppressing many
faiths, officials are cautiously relaxing their grip. Across the country,
massive networks of household churches, village temples and regional folk
beliefs are powering what has become the most astonishing religious revival in
modern history.
    China's Leap of Faith, a two-part documentary for VisionTV, examines both
the impact of this spiritual rebirth, and the government's continued efforts
to control religious faith.
    Made for VisionTV by Toronto-based Cogent/Benger Productions, China's
Leap of Faith airs on Tuesday July 22 and Wednesday July 23 at 9 p.m. and
Midnight ET / 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. PT.
    This Canadian television premiere presentation is part of VisionTV's
week-long "God in China" programming event. For more information on this
special event, please visit
    The story of how these documentaries were made is itself extraordinary.
    Surmounting bureaucratic obstacles, Cogent/Benger gained permission from
the Chinese government to present both sides of the regime's policies and
practices with respect to religion.  The production even managed to secure a
rare interview with the Chinese Minister of Religion.
    "A lot of films are made in China by keeping a low profile and avoiding
official notice," said producer/director Christopher Sumpton. "On this
project, however, we knew we'd need official permission. That wasn't going to
happen without high-level support from the Chinese government. And until now,
they haven't been talking to the foreign press about religion. Like most human
rights issues in China, it's an off-limits topic."
    "Historically, regime change in China has often hinged on religious
developments, so we had to work very cautiously with the government," said
director Paul Webster. "We had an assigned official who monitored every step
we took. Even so, this project marks the government's acknowledgement that it
is now time to start talking about religion."
    Incorporating never-before-seen footage of underground worship, China's
Leap of Faith breaches a wall of official silence to document the tense
balancing act between devotees of the great religions and their nervous
political masters in Beijing.
    Part One, "The Gods Come Home" (July 22), probes the Chinese government's
scramble to contain the explosive re-awakening of Buddhism, Taoism and
traditional folk faiths across China.
    Part Two, "The Bamboo Cross" (July 23), charts the rapid growth of
Christianity in China and tells the stories of clergy and believers who must
choose between worshipping openly or in the shadows.
    China's Leap of Faith was produced by Christopher Sumpton and
Robin Benger of Cogent/Benger Productions. Joan Jenkinson is the Executive
Producer for VisionTV.
    "The Gods Come Home" was co-directed by Paul Webster and Diana Xiaoping
Dai. "Bamboo Crosses" was directed by Christopher Sumpton.

For further information:

For further information: Media Contacts: Cynthia Amsden, Phone: (416)
910-7740, Email:; David Todd, Media Relations Manager,
VisionTV, Phone: (416) 368-3194, ext. 207, Email:

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