Guerrilla Tactics as Hong Kong Documentary ‘Yellowing’ Denied Theatrical Release

A documentary capturing moments of one of Hong Kong’s biggest civic protests could become the next “Ten Years,” last year’s dystopian imagining of Hong Kong under Chinese rule.

The new film, “Yellowing” has been denied general release in the city’s theaters despite repeated pleas. It documents the 79-day ‘Occupy Central’ protests in Hong Kong in 2014 and includes footage capturing clashes between protesters and the police, as well director Chan Tze-woon being punched in the face by a policeman.

Yellow was the color of the umbrellas carried by protesters as a shield against rain and tear gas.

The film premiered at the Hong Kong Independent Film Festival in January. Ying E Chi, an independent film body that was among the producers, has been negotiating with theaters ever since. Ying E Chi’s Vincent Chui has often worked with commercial cinemas to host special screenings of independent films. But after “Ten Years” won the best picture prize at the Hong Kong Film Awards in April, sparking an immediate political backlash, cinemas told him that there would not be any slots for “Yellowing” until 2017.

“I was hoping ‘Yellowing’ can get general release. Ying E Chi helped me negotiate with cinemas for a long time, but we failed,” Chan told Variety. The Hong Kong Theaters Association could not be reached for comment.

Chan has instead taken to staging guerrilla screenings. He said 20 screenings reaching nearly 3,000 people have been staged so far. Chui says that in order to meet the requirements for next year’s HKFA nomination, five ticketed public screenings were held this week at the Hong Kong Film Archives.

Like “Ten Years,” “Yellowing” is also enjoying a festival career. It played at the Taiwan International Documentary Festival in May and will next go to the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Chinese Documentary Film Festival in Hong Kong later this month. It has also been submitted for competition at the prestigious Golden Horse Film Awards in Taiwan.

“Freedom of speech and creativity in Hong Kong has been eroded over the the years. I’m very worried [about the future of Hong Kong cinema]. The topic of your films can directly or indirectly affect your film’s chance of accessing a wider audience,” Chan said.

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