Hong Kong protest films “Revolution of Our Times” and “May You Stay Forever Young” will have their British premiere in March at a new film festival organized by artists and culture sector workers who have relocated to the U.K.
Ng Ka-leung, a producer and director of Hong Kong dystopian anthology “Ten Years,” and documentary filmmaker and writer Wong Ching, co-curators of Hong Kong Film Festival U.K. 2022, said the festival is more than just about screening films that can no longer be shown in their hometown due to political changes.
It is organized by Hong Kong Umbrella Community, a U.K.-based body co-founded by Nathan Law, a former Hong Kong lawmaker who is now living in exile in Britain. The inaugural edition of the festival is funded by private donors, but event organizers hoped to raise funds from other sources for future editions.
The U.K., Hong Kong’s former colonial master, has become a new home to tens of thousands of Hongkongers following last year’s launch of the BNO visa scheme. The scheme offers a pathway to U.K. citizenship for holders of British National (Overseas) passports, which were available only to those who were born in Hong Kong before the city was handed over to China on July 1, 1997.
The presentation of 16 titles—including six documentary features, five dramatic features and five short films—across London, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh, they said, aims to promote contemporary Hong Kong film culture in the U.K.
“Overseas audiences have long associated Hong Kong cinema with Wong Kar-wai and Bruce Lee. The focus on Hong Kong cinema among local and international audiences has also been shifted to politics after 2019,” Ng told Variety. “But there’s so much more to Hong Kong film culture and we want to offer a fresh perspective.”
Raising the curtain of the inaugural edition of the festival, titled “Rupture and Rebirth – fresh perspectives on the time of Hong Kong’s upheaval,” is “Revolution of Our Times,” Kiwi Chow’s (“Ten Years,” “Beyond the Dream”) documentary on 2019 Hong Kong protests that premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film, which also won last year’s Golden Horse best documentary prize, will debut in London on March 19 at Genesis Cinema.
“Forever Young,” a youth drama set against the backdrop of the protests co-directed by Rex Ren and Sam Lam, will close the London leg of the festival on March 27. Both the festival’s opening and closing films are unable to be released in Hong Kong following 2020’s implementation of the National Security Law, which bans activities deemed to relate to secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with enemy foreign forces. Hong Kong authorities last year also tightened the film censorship law to effectively ban films that pose “threats to national security.”
The festival also presents: “Inside the Red Brick Wall,” a protest documentary that was pulled from Hong Kong release last year after pro-Beijing politicians alleged that the film may violate the NSL (but before the censorship law was tightened); as well as scholar Malte Kaeding’s “Black Bauhinia,” which documents the rise of the Hong Kong localism and independence movements prior to the 2019 protests.
Besides the political titles, “Drifting,” Jun Li’s award-winning directorial title centering on the tragedy of homeless people, and “Ballad on the Shore,” a 2017 documentary by Ma Chi-hang that captures the last remaining memories of fishermen’s songs in the city, are also among the selection.
Leung Ming-kai and Kate Reilly’s “Memories to Choke On, Drinks to Wash Them Down,” winner of best screenplay at the Hong Kong Film Critics’ Society Awards 2020, Simon Chung’s 2018 gay drama “I Miss You When I See You,” “Gone with Wind,” Fai Wan’s 2018 documentary on the homeless, are also featured.
The 4K restored version of Fruit Chan’s “Made in Hong Kong,” and Alvin Tsang’s family documentary “Reunification” (2015) are also featured.
Ng, a board member of the organization, admitted that certain film distributors and rights owners had concerns when they were approached to collaborate with the new festival. It was never the festival’s intention to politicize the discussion through films, he said.
“We want to find a way to narrate Hong Kong stories in turbulent times through films. It is about maintaining the Hong Kong cultural identity,” Wong said. The city’s once thriving film industry has been muted of late, with a significant portion of staff now working on mainland Chinese projects.
The festival will run from March 19-27, 2022 in London and March 31 to April 10 in Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh.