The director of a Norwegian documentary about the 2019 Hong Kong pro-democracy protests and unrest has told HKFP it is “not a big surprise” that Chinese media outlets have reportedly been ordered to cancel live broadcasts of this year’s Oscars ceremony after his film was nominated.

Anders Hammer. Photo: Do Not Split.

“This alleged censoring of the Oscars due to our documentary being nominated is unfortunately not a big surprise after witnessing how freedom of speech and freedom of press is being drastically curtailed in Hong Kong,” Anders Hammer told HKFP on Wednesday. “Sadly the situation there is deteriorating right now, and we see activists and pro-democracy politicians risking many years in prison charged under the new draconian national security law.”

Do Not Split – a 35-minute feature – follows anti-extradition law demonstrators and the government’s backlash up until the onset of the national security law last June. The title is a reference to the protesters’ principle of remaining united. 

‘Lacks artistry’

Bloomberg cited an anonymous source on Wednesday as claiming that the Communist Party’s propaganda department had ordered all media outlets to play down coverage of the event and cancel live broadcasts.

Meanwhile, an article in the state-run tabloid Global Times said the film did not deserve an Oscar as it lacked “artistry and is full of biased political stances.” Citing “Chinese film industry observers,” it said that the film did not show the full picture of the movement and quoted Weibo users as claiming the movie was “faked.”

Protests erupted in June 2019 over a since-axed extradition bill. They escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment. Demonstrators demanded an independent probe into the police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.” 

The movie has amassed over 81,000 views on Vimeo, and has already been screened at Denmark’s International Documentary Film Festival and the New Orleans Film Festival in the US.

The 93rd Academy Awards are set to take place on April 25. Do Not Split is up against four other films in its category.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.