Hong Kong’s aspiring filmmakers determined to stay in the industry despite government crackdown

  • A proposed amendment to the Film Censorship Ordinance would require official censors to asses a film’s impact on national security
  • Young creatives say will continue to pursue their dreams of working in the industry, but with more caution
Yanni Chow |

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Many people fear the new censorship amendments will severely limit the film industry in Hong Kong - once dubbed “The Hollywood of the East.” Photo: SCMP/ Sam Tsang

Aspiring young filmmakers in Hong Kong have expressed concerns that the government’s proposed censorship law amendments would limit their ability to make films freely and creatively, though some are still determined to work in the industry.

Earlier this week, the government announced a series of potential changes that would include empowering the city’s No 2 official to ban previously approved films if they are deemed a threat to national security.

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The pending amendments to the Film Censorship Ordinance would also require official censors to assess the impact of a production on national security during the approval process. The maximum penalty for unauthorised screenings would be increased to three years in prison and a HK$1 million fine.

The amendments still need approval from the city’s legislature.

“We knew the government would do that. They are [not allowing] us to think because they fear our creations,” said Malik, who recently graduated from a Hong Kong film school and asked to be identified by his surname only.

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But he said he would still work in the industry and express himself through cinematography because it has always been his dream.

“I know there will be increasing limitations day by day … we are used to working under pressure and limitations,” Malik added.

He cited Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, who was arrested for his film There Is No Evil, saying it was worth going against the rules to be able to tell sensitive stories. The award-winning piece highlights the use of the death penalty in Iran.

Actor Ehsan Mirhosseini in a still from the Iranian film “There Is No Evil.”

Sonia, who also asked not to be identified with her full name, is also choosing to keep pursuing this industry, but with more caution.

“I have worries over my work violating the regulations. After all, I don’t want my efforts to go to waste,” said the 20-year-old, who is studying film and television in a local university.

She added there was no need to self-censor yet, as the regulations in the Ordinance were still unclear.

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“It’s hard to determine where the baseline is, but I’m sure there will be more self-censorship after the first violation,” said Sonia, who aspires to be a director or screenwriter after graduation.

Sonia stressed that filmmakers should be given the ability to produce movies freely and creatively - something both she and Malik fear would be limited under the new amendments.

However, Ma Fung-kwok, a legislator from the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication sector, said on a RTHK radio programme on Wednesday that the amendment would not affect creative freedom.

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“If the entire movie is deemed harmful to national security and cannot be screened, the biggest victim is the investors, not the filmmakers,” Ma said.

In response to what he viewed as the government’s efforts to limit filmmakers’ freedom of expression, Malik quoted a line from the movie V for Vendetta, “Ideas are bulletproof”, saying that ideas live on no matter what.

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