The International Film Festival Rotterdam is to be the first major cultural event to react to the ongoing Hong Kong political protests. It will put on a program showcasing recent films that chronicle the city’s biggest social upheaval.
Ordinary Heroes: Made in Hong Kong will showcase 24 features, documentaries and short films. These include the world premiere of James Leong and Lynn Lee’s “If We Burn,” a documentary feature on the seven-month long protests that were sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill in June 2019. Alan Lau’s feature-length film debut “The Cube Phantom,” an experimental dance film about Hong Kong people’s struggle for freedom and democracy, is another highlight.
The section also features international premiere of “Memories to Choke On, Drinks to Wash Them Down,” a collection of shorts about Hong Kong life by Leung Ming-kai and Kate Reilly, and Evans Chan’s “We Have Boots”, said to be a follow-up of his “Raise the Umbrella” documentary on Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy movement.
Ten new works are featured in the shorts section. These include Black Blorchestra’s music video of “Glory to Hong Kong,” the protest theme song that quickly became the city’s unofficial anthem written by an anonymous composer with lyrics crowdsourced from netizens.
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Over seven months the protests have morphed into a large-scale movement demanding political freedom and universal suffrage, which are promised in the Basic Law, the mini-constitution of Hong Kong drafted when the city was handed over from Britain to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. Millions of people have taken to the streets peacefully but other events also ended up with violence involving both police and protesters.
The Rotterdam program, part of the festival’s Perspective section, was curated by critic Shelly Kraicer. It also includes a range of archival films that aim to contextualise the latest works, such as Fruit Chan’s 1997 “Made in Hong Kong,” Ann Hui’s 1999 “Ordinary Heroes,” “The Delinquent” by Kuei Chih-hung in 1997, and “Long Arm of the Law” by Johnny Mak in 1984.
Films inspired by the 2014 Umbrella Movement including dystopian shorts ensemble “Ten Years,” documentaries “Yellowing” by Chan Tze-woon, and “Lost in the Fumes” by Nora Lam, are also included.