Do Not Split (2021, Short)
Dir: Anders Hammer
Who is this documentary about?
Hongkongers, mainly young and students, take to the streets in fierce protest.
What are they protesting?
With Hong Kong meant to be autonomous but under Chinese governance, laws are being brought in to allow for extradition to the mainland and making Hongkongers less independent.
When did these protests happen?
The film is shot over 2019 and 2020, though I believe that the issues it deals with are very much still ongoing. They’re violent clashes with riot police, with firebombs being thrown, and tear gas dispersed into the crowds. At times there are ‘sieges’ and the streets resemble a war zone, strewn with debris, spotted with fires, and engulfed in plumes of smoke and gas.
How is it shot?
The filmmakers are right in the midst of the protests with their cameras, alongside protesters, at times so close you think they’re about to be beaten too. It makes the film feel very immediate and powerful, also difficult to watch when people are injured or suffering the effects of tear gas.
Why might it not have the intended impact?
I think the editing does the protesters a disservice. The film opens with a group of protestors looking for the bank of China, then breaking in, and setting fire to it. There’s no indication they’re being chased, provoked (at that time) or confronted, it’s a destructive act of protest. This risks putting viewers on a bad footing with them right from the start. I understand their desire to protest, but where I live people are more familiar with the concept of peaceful protesting, though when provoked the tone and methods can sometimes change and a protest can turn hostile and violent, though that rarely turns sentiment toward the protestors and I think it may risk undermining the message of this film for many too.
Where can I watch this?
It’s available to watch on YouTube or on the Field of Vision website, they’re in support of independent journalism so I think they wanted the film to be available as easily as possible for people to watch. It’s fascinating and troubling, the closest to being in the middle of a fierce protest I’d ever want to get.
China is not televising the Oscars this year, much of the discussion around this has focused on Chloe Zhao and things she’s said about China in interviews, but clearly, this has also got to be a reason for that decision. Plus, in the International Feature race, there’s also ‘Better Days’ a film credited to be specifically from Hong Kong, not China, which may be another factor.