Not only revolutionaries, not just film
Most of us see films as a way of escaping from our humdrum lives for and hour or two. Some people see film as a medium of aesthetic expression. But 22-year-old film director Mo Lai Yan-Chi sees film as a platform for expressing social statements. Her mission is reflected in Not Only Long Hair, Not Only Ernesto Che Guevara, a documentary that retraces the footsteps of Cuba's revolutionary hero.
Mo is a third year student in the Department of Cinema and Television at the Hong Kong Baptist University. Her previous independent film Mr Dummy won the Best Editing Award at the second Greater China University Television and Cinema Awards.
Not Only Long Hair, Not Only Ernesto Che Guevara was shot during a month-long trip to Cuba, Argentina and Bolivia in December last year. Other members of the trip included staff of theatre group FM Theatre Power and 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, who is now a legislator. The aim of the trip was to collect information about Guevara for the theatre performance May Be Long Hair, May Be Che Guevara which was staged earlier this year.
'Our original idea was to follow Guevara's motorcycle tour. Since our budget was limited, we could only go to three places - Argentina, where Guevara was born; Cuba, where his revolution succeeded; and Bolivia, where he was killed,' Mo said.
With a simple hand-held DV camera borrowed from a friend, Mo revealed Long Hair's lesser-known qualities that audiences probably would not see on television. 'He is portrayed as a radical, outspoken activist by the mass media. But after spending a month with him, I have seen his mellow side. I was impressed by his curiosity about all sorts of people - street kids, teenagers, Chinese restaurant owners. He tried hard to communicate with them even though he can't speak the language (Spanish)' she said.
'Now, I realise how I was manipulated by the media. Our perception of Long Hair is based entirely on how he is portrayed in the media. Have we ever questioned if the reporting is neutral? How can we judge someone by seeing them so briefly on the news?' Mo asked.
But Long Hair and Guevara are only the starting point. The documentary also reveals the plight of exploited miners and street kids in the three countries. 'I want people in materialistic Hong Kong to slow their pace down and listen to the stories of these less privileged people who spend their whole lives fighting hunger and poverty,' she said.
'After witnessing the injustice in these countries, and as a member of the media, I have to stand up and tell the truth through my film,' said Mo.
The film is in Cantonese and Spanish with Chinese and English subtitles. It will be screened at the Hong Kong Arts Centre's Agnes b CINEMA! until December 19. Tickets cost $50 (adults) and $30 (students) and are available from Urbtix on 2734 9009. Each screening will be followed by a discussion.