Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sundance ’15: I Am Hong Kong (short)

It is eerily fitting that Hong Kong’s democracy activists chose the umbrella as their symbol. After all, they are now most definitely facing that proverbial rainy day. Aside from our colleagues at the Epoch Times, the largely AWOL American media did a terrible job of covering the Umbrella Protests. In contrast, HK filmmaker Flora Lau was there, capturing the images of a movement that deserved better in the brief but potent short, I Am Hong Kong, which screens during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

Based on her unusually subtle and nuanced narrative feature debut Bends, Lau will be a filmmaker to be reckoned with, assuming I Am Hong Kong does not cause her bureaucratic trouble down the line. Her approach for the short is elegantly simple, matching striking black-and-white stills with voiceovers from diverse protestors explaining what contemporary Hong Kong means to them, in either practical or metaphorical terms.

These are the faces we have not seen—the mothers with young children, the senior citizens, and the attractive young college students, who surely would have had plenty of other requests for their time, were they not demonstrating for meaningful democratic reforms. Indeed, their signs are quite telling, proclaiming “No party, no karaoke, fight for democracy,” and “Keep calm and carry an umbrella.”

While Lau was there more to observe and report than to make a statement, just being there and recording it all faithfully is significant. Clocking in shy of the five minute mark, it is definitely a shorty, but visually it is powerful, almost overwhelming stuff. Very highly recommended, I Am Hong Kong is a work of journalistic art that screens again with the documentary feature The Chinese Mayor tomorrow (1/28), Friday (1/30), and Saturday (1/31) in Park City and Thursday (1/29) and Friday (1/30) in Salt Lake, as part of this year’s Sundance.