Hong Kong protest films featured at Taiwan Documentary Festival


Two films linked to the Hong Kong protests that are unlikely to ever be screened in their home territories will take center stage at the Taiwan International Documentary Festival, in the event’s Chinese independent documentaries section. The festival takes place in several locations from May 6 to 15, 2022.

The eight-track Chinese independent documentaries section will give Chan Tze Woon’s “Blue Island” (“Yellowing”) its Asian premiere and Crystal Wong’s “The Grass is Greener on the Other Side” a world premiere.

Both films explore the fate of Hong Kong against the backdrop of the aftermath of the 2019 protests. The sometimes violent pro-democracy protests were sparked by the proposed law allowing suspects to be tried in mainland China, which applies a legal system different from the Hong Kong common law system.

The protests were largely silenced by Beijing’s injection of a national security law into the city’s legal system in June 2020. This ushered in considerations of secession, terrorism, subversion and collusion with foreign forces in every corner of Hong Kong society. Additionally, a strict but recently ineffective zero COVID policy has caused the exodus of hundreds of thousands of residents.

In “Blue Island,” Chan paints a portrait of Hong Kong during the turbulent times with documentary footage and scene re-enactments that chart the impact felt by Hong Kongers from all walks of life.

“The Grass is Greener on the Other Side” depicts the struggle of Hong Kong migrants who fled the city because of political considerations. The film’s director, Wong, is also a migrant from Hong Kong. But she returned to the city to cover the protest in 2019, and her film also examines migrants’ conflicts between preserving a Hong Kong cultural identity while in exile and assimilating into their new homeland.

Several films linked to the 2019 protests have been pulled from Hong Kong release as the city has tightened its film censorship rules. The political films have been accused by Beijing loyalists of being “seditious” and an alleged violation of national security law. These include “Revolution of Our Times”, “Inside the Red Brick Wall”, and the drama “May You Stay Young Forever”. These films were however screened in Taiwan and Britain at the recent Hong Kong Film Festival UK.

TIDF’s Chinese Independent Documentary Section is also hosting the screening of Li Wei’s “Silence in the Dust”, which follows the trajectory of underprivileged people in China. Hu Sanshou’s “The Burrows” is an intimate tale of his grandparents building their own grave in rural Shaanxi during the pandemic. Zhu Rikun’s “No Desire to Hide” offers audiences a glimpse into the daily life of the open relationship between filmmaker Wu Haohao and his girlfriend Ge Ningning.

Weina Zhao’s autobiographical work “Weiyena – The Long March Home” delves deep into the trauma of the Cultural Revolution. Viv Li’s “I Don’t Feel at Home Anywhere Anywhere” is an essay on her journey back to Beijing to see her family after leaving China for more than a decade. Tang Han examines the context of the Chinese banknote portrait of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong in “Pink Mao.”

The titles are among 18 films competing for the new TIDF Visionary Award, which replaces the previous Chinese Documentary Award. It will be presented on May 12.


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