Are you healthy enough to live in Hong Kong? That was a painfully legitimate question to ask before the advent of the CCP-Covid virus. When 80% of the populace is exposed to military-grade tear gas, it is certainly no city for asthma sufferers. You also better be strong enough to take a beating from the cops, should you be in the wrong place at the wrong time. You can see a lot of these things happening in Anders Hammer’s short documentary, Do Not Split, which received the Special Jury Recognition for Courage Under Fire during the 2020 DOC NYC.
Do Not Split premiered at this year’s Sundance, but it has clearly been revised and updated to address the CCP-Covid outbreak (which conveniently halted protests) and the draconian national security law that effectively criminalizes any deviation from Beijing’s line. It is sort of a chronicle of the movement and the violent police response, touching on big events, like the siege of HK Polytechnic University and the Legco elections that represented an overwhelming rebuke of the CCP and its puppet government. Yet, the reason to really watch DNS is some of the most viscerally intense footage of the protests and the police brutality collected in any documentary thus far.
It is also nice to see student democracy activist Joey Siu get screen time and recognition for her dedication and courage—or at least in would be in civilized world, where she would not have to worry about reprisals. Like most of the young protest leaders, she is very composed on camera. However, another thing that distinguishes DNS is the level of profoundly felt anger that is expressed toward China and the CCP. Judging from Hammer’s reportage, Hong Kongers are clearly bitter, in a way that cannot be alleviated simply through time and material comfort. These wounds run deep.
Somehow, Hammer shot or obtained a great deal of incredible footage. He also did a nice job of incorporating the grim events of 2020. Without question, this is one of the most important films screening at DOC NYC, along with Boning Li’s Some Way Out of Here. Very highly recommended, it still screens online today (11/19), as part of the “Short List” shorts at DOC NYC and screens 12/3-12/6 as part of SFFILM’s Doc Stories.