Introduced by Tiffany Sia
Taking Back the Legislature, Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers, 2020, digital projection, 47 mins
Inside the Red Brick Wall, Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers, 2020, digital projection, 88 mins
Taking Back the Legislature and Inside the Red Brick Wall depict two critical events in Hong Kong’s relentless 2019 protests, illuminating the messy scrum of direct actions—their tensions, desperation, and stakes—in unflinching detail. Produced collectively and credited anonymously out of concern for the filmmakers’ safety, they present a formal challenge to the tropes and ethics of documentary filmmaking that have come to redefine Hong Kong cinema.
Taking Back the Legislature follows the pivotal siege on the Legislative Council on July 1, 2019, which marked a shift in the ethos of the protests, from civil disobedience to a more confrontational approach; Inside the Red Brick Wall chronicles the 12-day occupation at Polytechnic University. Whereas the massive demonstrations against the extradition bill had previously been characterized by tactics like “be water,” with crowds fluidly assembling and dispersing to avoid being kettled, here we encounter new strategies. The films record a symbolic usurpation of institutional architecture, from the halls of state power to the university campus. Instead of focusing on any one individual, they feature a mass protagonist, its aspirations and internal contradictions. We watch as blurred faces discuss how to deal with the menacing presence of the police, sometimes in fierce disagreement. Geopolitical macronarratives and ideological debates dissolve to uncover essential stories of the frontlines: the technologies of dissident folk infrastructure and the drama of 21st century social upheaval.
Hong Kong established its reputation as a global cinema capital though a prodigious supply of kung fu pictures and bullet ballets, but a new chapter in the city’s singular film history is beginning, an era in which the most remarkable offerings are movies like Taking Back the Legislature and Inside the Red Brick Wall. For those not participating in them directly, the protests were often witnessed through fleeting clips circulated on social media, masked figures racing through clouds of tear gas; in the work of Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers, and their elegant organization of chaotic material, one is better able to see, in all its fullness and complexity, the action on the ground.
Followed by a virtual, voice-only conversation with Sia and Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers.