Cannes to screen Hong Kong protest documentary, risking controversy

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FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong film director Kiwi Chow poses after interview with Reuters, in Hong Kong
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong film director Kiwi Chow poses after an interview with Reuters, in Hong Kong, China June 19, 2020. Picture taken June 19, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

July 15, 2021

HONG KONG/PARIS (Reuters) – The Cannes Film Festival will show a new documentary on Friday chronicling the 2019 Hong Kong pro-democracy protests and shining a light on protesters’ stories, in a surprise addition to the line-up for the cinema showcase.

“Revolution of Our Times,” by native Hong Kong filmmaker Kiwi Chow, follows several protesters and documents clashes with police, in what the director previously described to Reuters as his attempt to help the movement live on.

China introduced a sweeping national security law a year ago to crack down on what it deems subversion, secessionism, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, and cinemas, universities and art galleries have cancelled screenings or exhibitions of protest-related works.

The Hong Kong government recently enacted new guidelines that allow authorities to censor films on the basis of safeguarding national security.

“Being able to have a premiere in the Cannes festival is a good chance to let the world know that there are still people persisting in Hong Kong,” Chow told Reuters. “I hope they can understand what happened in 2019 and bring some inspiration to the world.”

Chow said he worked freely on the documentary, without trying to think about any potential backlash.

“I try my best to ignore whether the documentary will cross the red line,” he said.

Cannes organisers said they had kept the screening under wraps in part as the film was not fully finished until the last minute, but had been interested ever since seeing early clips.

“We’re proud to put forward this film, through which cinema can shine a light on an important moment in world news,” Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux said in a statement.

Chow has made feature films, including dystopian film “Ten Years: Self Immolator” in 2015 and romantic drama “Beyond The Dream,” which was released in Hong Kong theatres last year.

He told Reuters in June that he was inspired to turn his camera to the protests when he, too, became an activist in 2019 and saw city workers such as cleaners in small acts of resistance.

(Reporting by Jessie Pang and Sarah White; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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