Young filmmakers itching to tell stories of Hong Kong's poorest
Young filmmakers find that life in a subdivided flat isn't as they expected - it's far worse
Bed bugs, more bed bugs, and even more bed bugs - this was the theme of a documentary made by two secondary school students about the plight of poor people living in subdivided flats.
Louis Mak and Camman Wong, both 19, did not expect conditions to be so bad when they visited Yeung Suen, 55, at his cubicle in Sham Shui Po as part of a school course.
"It isn't just a bug here or there. There were swarms of bugs," said Wong. After four visits, the two decided to use the bugs to tell the story.
"The place was a lot worse than I expected. The room was only big enough for one person to move about," Mak said about Yeung's 30 sq ft cubicle that costs HK$1,500 a month. "It's completely different from what we see on TV. It's much worse."
Their minutes-long documentary shows Yeung lifting the folds of his pillowcase, revealing bed bugs half the size of his fingernail. Yeung then squashes them, with blood the bugs have sucked leaving a big, dark blob on the fabric. The folds yield families more of bugs of all sizes.
"Mine is a perpetual battle with the bugs," said Yeung, who attended yesterday's documentary screening, where two other student-made clips showing life in cubicle flats were also shown.
"It's so hot at the moment; sometimes I can't sleep because of the bugs. I end up needing to sleep out in the park, or by the football pitches, or at McDonald's," he said.
Together with the students' documentaries, participating cubicle-flat dwellers were also given cameras to document their daily lives.
Yeung, a construction worker, took a picture of a newly built flower bed with bright pink flowers and wrote: "Sometimes I feel like my work environment is better than my home."
Yeung said he had lived in the cubicle for six years, but will be kicked out in the next few months because his landlady did not like him bringing people up to film his living space.
Teacher Fredie Chan Ho-lun at the Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity picked the topic of subdivided flats for last term's documentary class, hoping his students would learn to approach people from outside their own circles and go beyond their comfort zones.
The other two documentaries followed a mother living with her young daughter, and another mother who works on construction sites in Hong Kong while sending wages home to her child on the mainland.
A study commissioned by the government estimated that there were more than 170,000 people living in subdivided flats in the city, while social workers said the actual number was much higher, as most such flats were part of private properties and therefore hard to find.