[sponsored] On 1 July 2017, hundreds of Hongkongers captured their experiences of the 20th anniversary of the handover for the WYNG Media Award (WMA) Film crowdsourced project, “1 July 2017—A Day in Transition”. The documentary film project has since been woven into three short films which tell the stories of Hong Kong through the eyes of people who care about the city.
The short films will have their premiere during an exclusive event that will be organised in conjunction with the WMA Masters Award. Nine finalists have been shortlisted for the award, which is now in its sixth cycle. Documenting facets of Hong Kong’s transition from fishing village to metropolis, and from a British colony to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People’s Republic of China, the finalists explore the emotions, interpretations and things that have sprung from the in-between.
Hope and Uncertainty
In 1997, a transition occurred when Britain transferred its sovereignty over Hong Kong to China. This came with the promise to leave the city unchanged for five decades. However, as independent photographer Billy H.C. Kwok documents in Hong Kong: After the Handover, the city has been “infiltrated with minute changes that cannot be expressed”. Tracing these transitions, including the switch from singing “God Save the Queen” to the “March of the Volunteers” and the rise of real estate, Kwok portrays the “wandering status” of Hong Kong, where the only constant is uncertainty.
Across the border, Hong Kong is perceived with hope: in Wish, freelance photographer and furniture dealer Gong He presents an unadulterated view of the city, as seen through the eyes of everyday mainland Chinese citizens. Influenced by Hong Kong exports such as popular culture and the economy, these citizens speak plainly of their wishes for what they regard as a democratic Chinese city.
Representations and Reality
As extended lulls, transitions offer space for rumination. Several finalists have attempted to, through creating representations of transitions, invoke rumination on reality. In Ink Dips on Petals, Chan Shuk-on—an editor, photographer and artist—uses carefully selected, cut-up newspaper articles that have been reconstructed to resemble flowers in bloom to encourage her audience to consider the impact of the media and public opinion on one’s understanding of the world, as she questions the “realness” of the apparent blooming hope for the new Chief Executive. In a similar tone, the portraits of political leaders in Phil Shek’s Louis Daguerre’s Nightmare, each of which represents a different chapter in the history of Hong Kong, examines how history is presented and studied.
Hong Kong/Belgium｜2017｜18 min｜In Cantonese, Mardarin and English with Chinese and English subtitles.
Roughly based around the July 1st handover celebrations, TRANSITION: HONG KONG is an audio-visual ode to Hong Kong and its people and structured along three works by the late Hong Kong poet Leung Ping-kwan (Ye Si). Through associative editing the film gives new meaning to the original words and evokes fragments of the city’s not so distant past, present and future.
Steven Dhoedt is a Belgian filmmaker, producer and cinematographer. In 1998, he moved to Hong Kong which marked the start of a long-lasting love affair with the city. In 2003 he founded VISUALANTICS, a Brussels-based independent production house, focusing on creative documentaries, fiction films and new media projects. His most recent documentary film, “Reach for the Sky”, had its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival 2015 and won both the award for Best Belgian Documentary at the 2016 Docville festival and the Ensor for Best Documentary at the Film Festival of Ostend 2016.
Meanwhile, artist Joseph Leung, in his series, The Flag of Hong Kong, Waving in the Wind, condenses the effects of a gust of wind on the flag of the HKSAR into ten frames to explore an alternate photographic reality that also reflects present-day Hong Kong. In Leung’s words,“Underneath the physical instability of the flag lies a convoluted stream of emotions and agitation…that originates from insecurity, anxiety, and fear regarding the uncertain transition into future.”
Spaces and Objects
Moving away from emotions and abstractions, some finalists take greater interest in the physical. In Tales from the Common Space, freelance photographer Berton Chang combs the urban landscape for signs of creation, decay, life and death as he examines the effects of human intervention on the natural landscape. This, as photographer and educator Tse Ka-man zooms in on marginalised groups, temporary spaces, and transitional places in Narrow Distances.
Hong Kong｜2017｜15 min｜In Cantonese, Mardarin and English with Chinese and English subtitles.
The film was edited based on the clips submitted by the public from 30th June to 1st July 2017, the day that transitioned into the 20th Anniversary of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Divided into seven scenes with seven songs, the scenes of the film were arranged in chronological order from morning to night, involving footage of silent workers, celebrating citizens, apathetic fruit market vendors, and discontented protesters.
SEEAHOLE is a groove-based music group, obsessed with art and sound. It was launched in 2017 as a music and art curation team. Noting that the Hong Kong art and music scene is an under-explored playground, SEEAHOLE is here to shake up the already-vibrant scene of Hong Kong. The trio Eason Yuen, Dave Kong and Kenji Ma produced their first micro-films in 2015. They won first place at the MEG Let’s Move Micro-Film Competition in 2016.
In The Unlocked Space, finalist Yim Sui-fong captures the emotions contained within the objects she had found in an abandoned, colonial-era building. Once belonging to the building’s former residents, the objects, as Yim sees them, have now become “a piece of history that can be freely manipulated, altered, deleted and defined”—or relics of transition.
For the rest of us, transitions simply mean the progression from one stage in life to the next. Design entrepreneur Frankie Chan captures dissipating smoke as paper offerings are burned for the deceased in Vanishing into Things as an exploration of the transition from birth to death, and from death to the afterlife, as well as the concepts of life and death that permeate generations.
Hong Kong｜2017｜11 min｜In Cantonese, Mardarin and English with Chinese and English subtitles.
It has been twenty years since the first day when the free port became a single voice, change is inevitable. The older generation wishes to stay put; the middle generation does not want to know, does not want to ask; the younger generation wants to breakthrough the blind spots. From which point should everyone restart their journey, so that they can come to a meeting point along their respective routes?
Stanley Tam, born and bred in Hong Kong, is a film producer and educator. The long and short form films which he has contributed had been shown in various festivals, leading to several awards. He is currently a university lecturer, Vice Chairman of the Film Editors Association, and a member of CASH.
Catch the finalists’ works and participate in corresponding discussions and forums from 14 to 24 April 2018 at the TRANSITION—WMA Masters & WMA Film Exhibition at the Exhibition Gallery, the Hong Kong Central Library.