Director BIO:  Mathias Magnason (DEFIANCE IN THE KINGDOM OF FAKE NEWS)

Mathias has loved storytelling his entire life. At the age of 5, he was obsessed with Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series. At age 18, his uncle—an award-winning cinematographer—offered him an internship. On the sets of movies and drama TV, Mathias entered the world of visual storytelling. For five years, Mathias assisted in various roles, from producing to directing, editing, lighting and sound design. He fell in love with the magic, spirit and tenacity of the industry.

Motivated to create films that would impact the world, Mathias went on his own. The United Nations hired Mathias for his directorial debut, where he shot a documentary about a cultural exchange between two schools in Sweden and Malawi, southern Africa. Working with the African children was so rewarding, they inspired Mathias to continue down the road of making humanitarian-focused documentaries.

In his second film—“Article 23”—Mathias produced a 20-minute documentary that told the story of Falun Gong, the persecuted spiritual group in China. At a time when no one else would touch the subject, Mathias was able to get it aired on broadcast TV in Sweden.

In 2010, Mathias moved to the US and founded Magnason Film to continue making impactful documentaries and to produce videos for commercial clients. Since its inception, Magnason Film’s videos and films have earned over 30 film festival awards and garnered millions of views across social media.

Tireless in his desire to improve his filmmaking craft, Mathias has been studying acting at the Michael Chekhov School of Acting since 2018. He initially began his acting study to improve his communication with actors, but Mathias has found a second love, having as much fun in front of the camera as behind it.

Director Statement

This past winter, our small team (Jan, Levi & myself) were huddled around the wood stove in my garage that doubles as my studio. It was bitter cold. As we reviewed some of the recent headlines about “fake news” across the U.S., Levi stopped and said: “If Americans only knew how news is manufactured and manipulated in China.” Playing off China’s moniker as the “Middle Kingdom,” Jan added: “yeah, the KINGDOM of fake news.”

We all stopped, and looked at each other. We were all thinking the exact same thing: we HAD to find a way to tell this story, but how? We’re all blacklisted from visiting China, and even if we could get in, there’s no way to get meaningful footage or safely work with someone on the ground without putting their lives at risk.

But we did have some quality archive footage, and we certainly had a compelling narrative: the most compelling real-life story, in fact, that I think I had ever heard.

We decided on that day, we had to find a way. People needed to know what happened in the northeastern city of Changchun… what these heroes did, why they did it, and why it was so important not just for China, but for freedom of conscience and belief around the world.

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