Letter from Masanjia
Letter from Masanjia
Letter from Masanjia

Letter from Masanjia

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  • Directed by: Leon Lee
  • Released: 2019 (educational)
  • Year of Production: 2018
Running Time: 76 min. 
Language: English
Includes English Closed Captioning
Subjects: Human Rights, Asian Studies, Multicultural Studies, Religion and Spirituality Studies, Sociology, Immigration and Refugees


Letter from Masanjia begins when mom of two, Julie Keith, finds an SOS note in a box of "Made in China" Halloween decorations from an Oregon Kmart. The Desperate note was written by a political prisoner named Sun Yi, from inside China's notorious Masanjia labor camp. On the crumpled page that travelled over 5000 miles, he details being jailed for his spiritual beliefs and how he is being subjected to torture and brainwashing tactics. His message goes viral and miraculously leads to the closure of China's entire labor camp system. But their story is far from over.

Peabody-winning Canadian filmmaker Leon Lee is not welcome in his native country because of his prior films about China's human rights abuses. So, in Letter from Masanjia, he teaches Sun Yi to use camera equipment via Skype. For over a year, he secretly captures harrowing footage of his daily life as a human rights defender, leading up to his tense run from the Chinese authorities. Meanwhile, just outside Portland, Julie Keith is struggling with her own dilemmas as a mother newly embroiled in this cause. Together, these unlikely heroes expose China's ongoing persecution against millions whose ideology differs from the Chinese government.

Select Awards

Canadian Screen Award Nomination: Ted Rogers Best Feature Documentary

Nominated for 6 Leo Awards: Best Documentary Feature, Best Direction, Best Editing, Best Writing, Best Sound, and Best Music

Cambridge Film Festival: Silver Punt Audience Award for Best Documentary

St. Louis International Film Festival: Best Feature Documentary

Budapest International Documentary Festival Winner

Hot Docs: Top 20 Audience Favorite

American Asian International Film Festival: Audience Award

Doqumenta: Grand Jury Prize for International Documentary

Atlanta Docufest: Audience Award

Portland Film Festival: Audience Award

DocsMX: Jury Award for Breaking Doc


"A potent documentary... It's an important story, made more intense by its tight focus... well-told" - The New York Times

"Amazing film... A powerful tale of human suffering, compassion and perseverance" - Los Angeles Times

"You have to see this incredible story to believe it" - POV Magazine

"An astonishing sequence of events." - BBC World Service, Outlook

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