Friday, June 11, 2021

Hong Kong movies can now officially be deemed threats to national security and subject to censorship on these grounds!

The best years?  Not for Hong Kong, including its cinema, it's not!
To be honest, I rather this come out and be an open thing rather than the past pussyfooting around where screening venues "couldn't be found" for certain films and such even while, in an ideal world, there wouldn't be any such film censorship at all.  And for those who think that all this began to happen just this year, remember how difficult it was for the Umbrella Movement documentaries (including Evans Chan's Raise the Umbrellas and Chan Tze Woon's Golden Horse award-nominated Yellowing) to be screened and Ten Years too years before the first anti-extradition bill protests took place, never mind the coming into effect of China's security law for Hong Kong last June 30th.

One can but hope that he's right.  And, also, that the censors won't go through Hong Kong cinema's back catalogue and start banning old films left, right and center.  In addition, I am hoping that contemporary Hong Kong filmmakers can and will respond to these film censorship threats (which, still are on the broad and vague side -- like the whole national security law shebang -- thus requiring the film censors to "intuit what will displease Beijing") in ways akin to those that the best of Iran's filmmakers have done so over the years.    
Amidst the justified fears (witness Far From Home, a film about political divisions in Hong Kong following the extradition bill protests, getting pulled from the Fresh Wave International Short Film Festival in the wake of the new censorship rules announcement), it is worth bearing in mind that Hong Kongers have shown remarkable -- and unexpected -- resilience in the past two years or so.  (And I'll include those of its filmmakers whose films make it clear that they love Hong Kong, of which there have been a number of examples in recent years).  Just two nights ago, signs asking Hong Kongers who want a free Hong Kong to keep the faith appeared atop Lion Rock.  At a time of great repression, this means a lot.       
Looking at the big picture, I have to wonder and ask: what kind of regime considers films to be possible national security threats?  Just last week, the individual who goes by the handle Pinboard over on Twitter observed that: "When police crack down on public dissent, people find subtler ways to express it. The cops can never win a game that pits them against the full creativity of a city like Hong Kong."  And I'd suggest that the following statement applies to the regime as a whole rather than just its armed enforcers: "Under full repression, the dissent will become so subtle it will tip the oppressors into paranoia".
And while paranoia is a dangerous thing (including in opponents), another of Pinboard's points rings true too: "The joy of successful subversion, of getting the authorities to play themselves, of subtext and double meanings, finding uncensorable ways to express dissent, all these school-like kicks against authority are no substitute for freedom, but they make the lack of it more tolerable."  The possibility does exist that this "latest move might also spark more creativity in self-expression – contrary to the authorities’ intention."  At the very least, don't count Hong Kong cinema out yet -- and, if you actually care about it, now's the time to support it rather than (continue to prematurely) lament its death!  


Michael Philip Wells said...

That Van den Troost essay sounds really interesting. I just checked and discovered the book is on order at the NY public library. Thought it's likely to be a book you can't check out and can only read in the library, like a lot of academic texts.

Paul said...

Hong Kong Cinema is Dead! Long Live Hong Kong Cinema!

YTSL said...

Hi Michael --

Let me know what you think should you go ahead and reat Van den Troost's essay!

Hi Paul --

Something like that -- yes!