In documentary film Hong Kong Moments (2020), seven Hongkongers from all walks of life - including a taxi driver, a frontline protestor, a Hong Kong police officer and a pro-Beijing councillor - are followed over three key days during last year's pro-democracy movement.
Directed by Zhou Bing, the film is an impartial witness to the protests sparked by the introduction of the controversial extradition bill in April 2019, which would allow suspects to be extradited from Hong Kong to mainland China, where they can be detained.
From the escalating violence between police and frontline protestors to the mundane everyday of dining at a teahouse, the group go about their daily lives, filtered through the lens of the protests and their place within it.
While taxi driver Ray Ng is incensed over his teenage son’s support of the protestors and its interruption of daily life, frontline protestor Ah Bau believes they are necessary after peaceful protests “failed to make us heard”, adding, “a revolution is needed, and it belongs to our time”. Meanwhile, Hong Kong police officer Peter Yip wonders whether he should put himself in the protestors' shoes, but adds he doesn't believe the protestors would do the same for him. First aider Nok Lee, however, insists the protests are "not about your views, but your conscience".
In one moment in the film, an uncomfortable conversation between pro-Beijing councillor Benny Yeung and a taxi driver turns into a heated argument, with the politician decrying the dropping of riot charges against protestors, believing it would only lead to greater violence, and that the police "wouldn’t have used force if [the protestors] didn’t get violent". The taxi driver, however, is incredulous, saying the Hong Kong government’s violence "doesn’t pave the way for talk".
What is made clear through Hong Kong Moments is a generational divide between those born before and after the 1997 handover from Britain to China, with both sides believing strongly in their convictions for what is needed to create a more harmonious Hong Kong.
While there lies a clear perforation between the two opposing sides, Hong Kong itself remains in a state of flux. “Hong Kong is a borrowed time in a borrowed place,” a man says in a voiceover in the film’s opening credits - a sentiment which is keenly felt by many as the 2047 expiration of the “one country, two systems” transitional period looms in the distance.
Despite being a balanced and insightful portrait of the protests and the lives affected by it, it's difficult not to feel a sense of dread knowing that more unrest awaits following the passing of China's contentious Hong Kong national security law just seven months later. Hong Kong Moments is a must-watch for anyone looking for a more rounded snapshot of the protest movement and the contexts which inform it.
Rated M - Violence and offensive language
Hong Kong Moments is now available for streaming at NZIFF at Home - Online.