“Being in this era, you ought to tell the stories about this era,” says by Chan Tze-woon, director of Blue Island – an uncensored documentary that cannot be screened publicly in Hong Kong.

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HKFP speaks to four film directors about navigating new red lines under Hong Kong’s security law. Whilst some now enjoy free expression abroad, others have opted to stay and believe the restrictions could give rise to more creativity.

Film Censorship Ordinance

Since Hong Kong’s legislature amended the Film Censorship Ordinance in 2021, enabling the government to ban films deemed contrary to national security from being screened, some directors have given up releasing their works in Hong Kong.

The film authorities told HKFP that a total of three films have been banned since 2021 thus far – the first film bans since the 1997 Handover. At least 14 films have reported trouble in applying for screening approval over the past two years, according to analysis by HKFP.

Some directors were asked to remove certain scenes – including those showing protests and the Taiwan presidential election – according to related news reports. 

Films reported to have encountered issues when applying approval for screening
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  1. Taking back the Legislature 佔領立法會
  2. Inside the Red Brick Wall 理大圍城
  3. Far From Home 執屋
  4. The Cage 牢籠
  5. Piglet Piglet 美豬肉圓
  6. Anatomy of Rats 群鼠
  7. Time, and Time Again
  8. Islander 赤島
  9. The Dancing Voice of Youth 與亂世共舞
  10. Losing Sight of a Longed Place 暗房夜空
  11. April’s Interlude 四月的變奏
  12. The Lucky Woman 逃跑的人
  13. Bluffing 唬爛三小
  14. Quarantini 隔離丁尼

Chan’s documentary was nominated for Best Documentary at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards, yet he has decided not to send the film to censors in Hong Kong: “I won’t for my next work either,” he told HKFP. However, Chan insisted on continuing making documentaries on Hong Kong, despite not being able to release them in the city.

hong kong cinema
File photo: Louise Delmotte/HKFP.

“I think Hong Kong’s current climate is even more suitable for creative work,” Chan said, “Too many topics and stories need to be told, both through documentary and drama.”

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Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.