Reflection on the film 'Revolution of our Times'
What impresses me is the blur rendered between good filmmaking and real courage. Whether it is Bresson or not denies the point. This is the right film for Hongkongers, and for sympathetic international audiences.
by Harley Stapleton Brister
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a screening of the Hong Kong protest film ‘Revolution of our Times’ along the docks of Birmingham, by a contact with Good Neighbour Church who helped organise the event. I should’ve acknowledged pre-screening that this would be an uncomfortable viewing experience. During the film I was surrounded by Hongkongers who came to grieve and to hope despite odds. Watching the heroes of the Hong Kong ‘valiant’ protests (a term for the more aggressive, tactical style of protesting shown in this film) fend off tear gas canisters and hoses with umbrellas and signposts, side by side with an audience of Hongkongers, made me feel like a white imposter, but it was an experience I’ll never forget.
The film documents the 2019 and 2020 protests in Hong Kong begun in reaction against the ‘Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019’, or the ‘extradition bill’, which would allow Chinese authorities to bring criminals from Hong Kong, including political dissenters, back to mainland China for trial, potentially robbing them of a fair trial. The 2019 protests started as a movement to quote ‘kill the bill’, but even when the extradition bill was eventually pulled back by Carrie Lam who’d introduced it, the protests persisted, but under a new slogan: ‘liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our times’. Hongkongers were now fed up of the ways in which their rights and freedoms were slowly being eroded by Xi Jinping’s government; they want out from China, and a chance for Hong Kong to define her own future.
No one in this film is turned into a figurehead for democracy to appeal to Western audiences but here we’re invited into a faceless movement of democratic resistance. However, that’s not to say there aren’t faces. An Uncle (a common way of referring to seniors in Asian cultures) who became involved in the movement to protect youths at the forefront of valiant protests is particularly endearing.
What impresses me is the blur rendered between good filmmaking and real courage. Whether it is Bresson or not denies the point. This is the right film for Hongkongers, and for sympathetic international audiences. It is a well-crafted telling of the bravery of the Hong Kong people. The footage was bravely shot and hence lifted from reality by hands able to fit history into the dimensions of narrative without diminishing one or the other.
Kiwi Chow, the film’s director, visited after the film had been screened and discussed the film with those present. I met him and shook his hand, he commented on my Three Colours Trilogy jumper, we talked briefly before I attempted to apologize, embarrassingly, for what he and other Hongkongers had faced. I couldn’t get words to leave my mouth. After this display I made my way back to London, catching a cold on the way due to wet weather.