Kiwi Chow, the Hong Kong-based director of the controversial “Revolution of Our Times” documentary that screened on the penultimate day of the Cannes Film Festival, says he has disposed of his interests in the film.
“Revolution,” which takes its title from a pro-democracy protest slogan, chronicles the popular uprising in Hong Kong that started in mid-2019 and the government’s strongarmed suppression of the movement. Cannes gave the film its world premiere towards the end of the festival and without any fanfare in order to minimize any possible diplomatic reaction that would hurt Chinese filmmakers present at the fest or impact the ongoing events. The public reaction from Beijing has been muted.
Chow said on Thursday, however, that he has sold the copyright of “Revolution of Our Times” to a European distributor. He said he has also disposed of all his footage from the 150-minute picture.
“It’s a kind of risk assessment. In Hong Kong, I did not do any distribution of the film and I don’t have any clips with me,” he told the South China Morning Post.
Chow and the producers of the film have not responded to the latest enquiries from Variety.
Chow didn’t attend Cannes and chose to stay in Hong Kong, where the work leaves him potentially exposed to sanction under the territory’s far-reaching National Security Law which was introduced at the beginning of July last year.
The law has been used to upend the education and election systems and has struck fear into those parts of the population dissenting from the government’s pro-Beijing line.
The pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper has been closed down with eight staff arrested. Four editors, in addition to owner Jimmy Lai, are to be charged with National Security offences. On conviction, these could lead to imprisonment for life or extradition for trial in mainland China.
In recent weeks, the government has introduced National Security elements into the local film censorship system. The government-affiliated Arts Development Council has revoked funding previously granted to another protest documentary.
It is unlikely that “Revolution” will be shown in Hong Kong cinemas. Earlier this year, pro-Beijing forces in the city pressured cinema owners to call off their planned screenings of another pro-democracy film, “Inside the Red Brick Wall.”
While the legality of the protest documentaries hasn’t been tested in Hong Kong’s courts, the central government in Beijing has made its displeasure clear. In April, it canceled retransmission of the Oscars ceremony, where Ander Hammer’s protest film “Do Not Split” had been nominated as a short-form documentary and stood a chance of winning an Academy Award. Hong Kong broadcasters chose to follow that lead and also dropped their planned Oscars broadcasts.
Chow said he refuses to give in to fear.
“Staying in Hong Kong, I can face the risks. I feel the sense of fearlessness makes me feel free,” he told the SCMP. But he also accepts that he may be arrested and says he has discussed the possibility with his six-year old son.
Chow’s is the only name on the final version of “Revolution.” His financiers and technical collaborators have all chosen to remain anonymous. Chow said he made the film after being approached by a wealthy businessman who had seen “Self-Immolator,” Chow’s segment of the 2015 omnibus film “Ten Years” (aka “Sap Nin”) which asked five filmmakers to depict Hong Kong’s future.