The Asia Society has called off the screening of a documentary about the 2014 pro-democracy umbrella movement.

A spokesperson for the educational organisation told HKFP that its Hong Kong centre decided to cancel the screening on November 1 because filmmaker Evans Chan was only able to invite pro-democracy speakers for the panel. A page which listed the event, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was deleted.

raise the umbrellas
Photo: Screenshot from trailer.

“Asia Society is a non-partisan educational institution and we aim to present program[s] that are balanced and present both sides of a topic,” it said in an email. It said it decided to cancel the film because it deemed the program incomplete.

Raise the Umbrellas is a documentary about the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests, told through interviews with figures such as Occupy Central convenor Benny Tai, pro-democracy figures Martin Lee, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Emily Lau, student leader Joshua Wong, and activist pop icons Anthony Wong and Denise Ho.

The Asia Society screened a 25-minute version of Raise the Umbrellas in December 2015, while it was still a work in progress.

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It is not the only movie which has faced trouble with screening venues.

Chan Tze-woon, the director of another documentary about the umbrella movement, told HKFP he thought it was strange that the Asia Society would have cancelled the event owing to political concerns. “If they were planning to screen that kind of film they would have known what the background of it was.”

Chan said that it has been challenging to get his film Yellowing into the mainstream venues like commercial cinemas in Hong Kong, although it has been broadcast on Taiwanese public TV and screened at festivals in Vancouver and Taiwan.

Although he said commercial cinemas don’t usually show documentaries anyway, Chan said he thought the fact that the film was about the Umbrella Movement may have been a factor.

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“I think there is a need in Hong Kong at this time for documentaries… even though they are hard to distribute, they have their own value,” Chan said.

The Asia Society is an educational organisation founded in New York. Its website says that its Hong Kong centre was established entirely without local funding and is supported by its members, donors, corporations and foundations.

Additional reporting by Tom Grundy.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.