Hong Kong Protest Documentary ‘Blue Island’ Picked up for North America Ahead of Hot Docs Debut

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New York-headquartered documentary distributor Icarus Films has picked up all North American rights to Hong Kong protest film “Blue Island.” The film plays this week at the Hot Docs Documentary Festival in Toronto, Canada.

Directed by Chan Tze Woon (“Yellowing”), the film confronts the large-scale protests in Hong Kong, describing events through a mix of documentary footage and filmed reenactments.

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The distributor has not yet elaborated release plans, but says that it is taking booking requests from museums, arts organizations, film festivals and theaters across North America.

“A new wave of young people took back the streets, as one generation after another has done throughout Hong Kong’s history. Bullets fly. Fires ignite. White tear gas and blue water cannons encroach on public spaces. The past, the present, and the future converge,” said Icarus.

The film is informed by the life-defining experiences of three men: Chen Hak-Chi, a mainland China-born intellectual who swam to Hong Kong, fleeing the 1970s Cultural Revolution; Kenneth Lam, a student leader who survived the Tiananmen Square Massacre; and Raymond Yeung, a patriotic Hong Kong businessman jailed for inciting the anti-British colonial protests of 1966-67.

All are played by young protestors who took part in the 2019 round of demonstrations in Hong Kong against a bill allowing extradition to China. The protests and the police response both became violent and were eventually silenced by the twin impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and the introduction of Hong Kong’s National Security Law in July 2020.

The film previously played as an online press and industry screening at the International Film Festival Rotterdam which had to abandon its plans for an in-person edition in January. That allows Hot Docs to claim it as world premiere. It will then have its U.S. premiere at the New Directors/New Films 2022, and its West Coast premiere at CAAMfest 2022. Overseas, “Blue Island” has been selected for the Taiwan International Documentary Festival in May.

Chan and members of the film’s team will be attending the Hot Docs screenings in person.

“Blue Island” will join Icarus’ dGenerate Collection of independent films from mainland China curated by Karin Chien. Icarus was founded in 1978 and now represents a catalog of more than 1,000 titles.

Its other recent acquisitions include: “Lost Course,” about a democratic village in China’s uprising against local corruption; “Girls Always Happy,” an ironically-titled a story of “mutual repulsion, hatred and harm” between a single mother and her daughter; and Pema Tseden’s Tibetan road movie “Jinpa.

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