An award-winning Hong Kong protest documentary, “Inside the Red Brick Wall” has been pulled out from a local cinema before it could be shown to a ticket-buying public. Pro-Beijing forces in the city have alleged that the film may violate the June 2020 National Security Law.
Golden Scene Cinema announced on its Instagram Stories page on Monday that screenings of “Inside the Red Brick Wall” later that day and others scheduled for March 21 will be canceled. The cinema apologized for the inconvenience caused, asked for movie-goers’ understanding and offered refunds.
Notification of the cancellations came the same day as the beginning of the four-day Hong Kong FilMart. The rights market is the largest of its kind in Asia and is a showcase for Hong Kong as hub for regional commerce in film and TV content. It is being held entirely online this year, due to COVID-19’s impact on regional travel.
“Inside the Red Brick Wall” was part of a screening series of winners of the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards staged at Golden Scene Cinema, a recently-opened outlet operated by homegrown film company Golden Scene. It was to have been the first time the film had a commercial screening.
The documentary feature, shot by a collective of anonymous filmmakers, chronicles the 13-day standoff between the police and protesters at the Polytechnic University in November 2019 that were part of city-wide protests sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill.
“Red Brick Wall” was named as best film by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society in January. There were overnight queues this weekend to buy tickets.
But the film also came under fire from pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po. It said that a public screening of the film would incite hatred of China’s central government, the Hong Kong government and the police, which may violate the National Security Law.
Wen Wei Po also accused the film of violating the Film Censorship Ordinance and called for it to be banned. Previously, “Red Brick” had been classified as a Category III film, meaning that it could only be shown to those aged 18 or above, due to its coarse language and detailed depiction of violence.
“In response to the overwhelming attention on the screening [of “Red Brick”],” the cinema said that it has decided to pull the screenings “to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding.”
Beijing injected the National Security Law into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law, in response to the city’s political turmoil of 2019 and 2020. The law bans activities related to secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign influences to endanger national security.
Eight months after the law’s introduction, more than 100 people have been arrested for “committing acts or engaging in activities that endangered national security.” These include most pro-democracy legislators.
At last week’s so-called Two Sessions of China’s parliament, Beijing also announced strict new procedures for elections in the city, including patriotism as requirement for public office. While China said that it was “improving” the system in Hong Kong, several countries have condemned the move as an assault on democracy. “The U.K. now considers Beijing to be in a state of ongoing non-compliance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” the British foreign ministry said in a statement over the weekend.
The Joint Declaration is an internationally registered treaty between the two countries that stipulated how the former British colony should be governed over a period of 50 years after the 1997 handover to China.
Variety has reached out to the cinema and the film’s distributor for comment.