Kong is not just a business district. People really live there, as well as work
there, but they still do not vote there, at least not in a meaningful way.
Inspired by the 2014 Umbrella Protests, acclaimed expatriate cinematographer
Christopher Doyle explores the hopes and anxieties of three generations of
Hongkongers, through their own voice-over words in Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous (trailer here), which screens during the
2016 San Francisco International Film Festival.
three generations are defined by a common central conflict in their lives.
Obviously, for twentysomething college students, it was the democracy
demonstrations that were broken up with tear gas at the behest of the Mainland
Communist Party, inadvertently proving the lack of political freedom in Hong
Kong. However, the young grade schoolers are nearly as frazzled by the constant
barrage of tutors and cram schools pushed on them by their parents. In
contrast, many Hong Kong seniors still live with the repercussions of the long
standoff with the Mainland that often separated lovers and family members. A
diverse cross-section of average citizens will explain their perspectives to
Doyle, in disembodied interviews, synched-up to match the speakers
in-the-flesh, as they navigate the bustling city.
indeed tough to be a kid in Hong Kong, especially if you are bullied like the
husky Vodka. Yet, somehow Little Red Cap (or Lip Ching-man as her parents named
her) seems to make her own rules. Much to the astonishment of her photogenic
teacher, Selena Cheung, Little Red Cap has indiscriminately adopted just about
every major religion and regularly proselytizes for them all at school with
equal fervor. It is hard to know what to make of her. She seems to come from a
reasonably dysfunctional family of modest means that lives on a houseboat and
appears willing to indulge her evangelical inclinations.
cinematographer, Doyle obviously notices when someone absolutely lights up the
screen, because he often has the weird but charming Little Red Cap reappear in
later sequences. Naturally, that is her making holy water deliveries to the
Umbrella Square. The tent city was laid out in such an orderly fashion on the
Admiralty plaza, mail was reportedly delivered to protestors’ tents. We meet
the graphic artists documenting the movement and the one-generation-older
hipster who opened an informal open mic club to showcase musicians affiliated
with the movement. Unfortunately, its lack of proper licensing allows the cops
to confiscate their beer whenever justice gets thirsty.
the weakest and most self-consciously stylized segment focuses on the “preposterous”
seniors who take speed-dating tours, in some cases hoping to fill a void in
their lives that have been open for years. Even with the support of Little Red
Cap, Teacher Selena, and her dead beat rapper boyfriend, “Preposterous” cannot
match the energy and focus of “Preschooled” and “Preoccupied.” At least it
starts strong with the former and devotes the most time to the latter.
Doyle’s approach is
unnecessarily artificial, but many of his subjects are so compelling, they
command our attention nonetheless. Even with the spotty third act, Doyle’s
directly stated goal—that the world should start listening to Hong Kong’s
marginalized younger and older generations—is quite laudable. What they have to
say is absolutely worth hearing. Sometimes inspiring and sometimes a little strange,
Hong Kong Trilogy is still highly
recommended as a decidedly pointed yet idiosyncratic response to the harsh
crackdown on the Umbrella Protests. It screens this Friday (4/22) and Monday
(4/25), as part of this year’s SFIFF.
Labels: Christopher Doyle, Documentary, Hong Kong Cinema, SFIFF '16