Tokyo Filmex’s closing film, kept in secrecy and announced a day before the screening, as had also happened in Cannes, was Kiki Chow’s documentary about the the demonstrations and protests against China’s 2019 extradition bill, a year that coincided with the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the PRC.
For those who had followed this story and how it evolved and how it folded, much of the footage was already familiar. Chow would add both interviews with some of the key actors of the movement and the behind-the-scenes content they were willing to share, including downtime and strategy meetings. These first-hand accounts are similarly emotional, stemming from a shared sense of injustice and outrage. The filmmaker quickly summarizes the 1997 agreement between an occupying colonial nation and another unpreoccupied with the possibility that a country’s identity could have been redefined and taken another shape. The agreement, meant to last fifty years, came to halt when China announced, some twenty years after, that history, and destiny, could no longer wait.
As it stands, Revolutions functions as an unrelenting image apparatus that sees a new governor, acting as the firm fist of the state, giving extraordinary power to HK police, engaging in scenes of brutality one would see in the US and more recently in European countries. In one of the more telling moments, a foreign business owner, whose thirty years as resident empower him with entitlement, accuses the activists of destroying the island. Might the film have benefited from the voice of scholars and historians who could have framed differently the levels of commitment and sacrifice by such a young group of people? The visceral impact of the film, in a full house, brushed aside such considerations; there is only one name responsible for this. But Hong Kong’s history begs more questions, which will be more easily answered from outside China, in books and documentaries streaming in time with the narratives to come.
Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against? Johnny: Whadda you got? (1)
- The Wild One, dir. Laslo Benedek, 1953