Hong Kong protest doc surprise addition to Cannes

A documentary by Hong Kong filmmaker Kiwi Chow was a surprise addition to this year's line up at the Cannes Film Festival.

These stills are from "Revolution of Our Times", which chronicles the 2019 pro-democracy movement and shines a light on protesters' stories and their clashes with police.

China introduced a sweeping national security law a year ago to crack down on what it deems subversion, secessionism, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

Chow turned activist in 2019, and was inspired to get filming when he saw city workers like cleaners engage in small acts of resistance.

He hopes the movie will help the movement live on. Reuters caught up with him in Hong Kong in June.

“I'm a Hong Konger. I'm also a film director. What I have is my camera. I wanted to be involved in this movement. As long as I have a talent, I have a place in this movement. My identity gives me a sense of responsibility. I hope I can show people that Hong Kongers who work in the film industry are not absent from the movement."

The Hong Kong government recently brought in guidelines allowing authorities to censor films on the basis of safeguarding national security.

Cinemas, universities and art galleries have canceled screenings or exhibitions of protest-related works.

Chow said he worked freely on the documentary, doing his best not to think about the red lines.

"During production, it wasn't just my own fear I had to face. The most difficult thing was that I had to deal with other people’s fears, including those from news outlets, independent journalists, and online media. Many people are facing struggles of their own. After the national security law was put in place, many people refused to let me use their footage

Cannes organizers said they kept the screening under wraps partly because the film wasn't finished until the last minute, but early clips had piqued their interest.

Festival director Thierry Fremaux said Cannes was proud to put "Revolution of our Times" forward; it showed how cinema can shine a light on important moments in world news.

Chow has released several feature films, including the dystopian "Ten Years: Self Immolator" in 2015 and the romantic drama "Beyond The Dream," released in Hong Kong last year.

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