Two Hong Kong protest-related films that are unlikely to ever be screened in their home territory will take center stage at the Taiwan International Documentary Festival, in the event’s Chinese independent documentaries section. The festival runs at multiple venues May 6-15, 2022.
The eight-title Chinese independent documentaries section will give “Blue Island” by Chan Tze Woon (“Yellowing”) its Asian premiere and a world premiere to “The Grass is Greener on the Other Side” by Crystal Wong.
The two films explore the fate of Hong Kong against the backdrop of the aftermath of the 2019 protests. The sometimes violent pro-democracy protests were sparked by the proposal of law to allow suspects to stand trial in mainland China, which operates a legal system different from Hong Kong’s common law system.
The protests were largely silenced by Beijing’s injection of a national security law into the city’s legal system in June 2020. That has ushered considerations of secession, terrorism, subversion and collusion with foreign forces into all corners of Hong Kong society. Additionally, a strict, but recently ineffective, zero-COVID policy has caused the exodus of hundreds of thousands of residents.
In “Blue Island,” Chan paints a portrait of Hong Kong during the turbulent era with documentary footage and reenactments of scenes that trace the impact felt by Hongkongers from all walks of life.
“The Grass is Greener on the Other Side” depicts the struggle of Hong Kong migrants who fled the city because of political considerations. The film’s director Wong, is also a migrant from Hong Kong. But she returned to the city to cover the protest in 2019, and her film also examines migrants’ conflicts between preserving a Hong Kong cultural identity while they are in exile and assimilation with their new home.
Several films related to the 2019 protests have been pulled from Hong Kong release as the city has tightened its film censorship rules. Political films have been accused by Beijing loyalists as “seditious” and allegedly violating the National Security Law. These include “Revolution of Our Times,” “Inside the Red Brick Wall,” and the drama “May You Stay Young Forever.” These films, however, have been shown in Taiwan and Britain during the recent Hong Kong Film Festival UK.
The TIDF’s Chinese independent documentaries section also sees the screening of Li Wei’s “Silence in the Dust,” which follows the trajectory of underprivileged people in China. “The Burrows” by Hu Sanshou is an intimate tale about his grandparents building their own grave in the rural area of Shaanxi during the pandemic. Zhu Rikun’s “No Desire to Hide” offers the audience a glimpse into the daily lives of the open relationship between filmmaker Wu Haohao and his girlfriend Ge Ningning.
Weina Zhao’s autobiographical work “Weiyena – The Long March Home” dives deep into the trauma of the Cultural Revolution. “I Don’t Feel at Home Anywhere Anywhere” by Viv Li is an essay on her journey returning to Beijing to see her family after having left China for over a decade. Tang Han examines the context of the Chinese banknotes’ portrait of China’s late leader Mao Zedong in “Pink Mao.”
The titles are among the 18 films competing for the newly established TIDF Visionary Award, which replaces the previous Chinese Documentary Award. It will be presented on May 12.
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