Taking Back the Legislature and Inside the Red Brick Wall depict two critical events in Hong Kong’s relentless 2019 protests, illuminating the messy scrum of direct actions in unflinching detail. Produced collectively and credited anonymously out of concern for the filmmakers’ safety, they present a formal challenge to the tropes and ethics of documentary filmmaking that have come to redefine Hong Kong cinema and the “copaganda” film as genre.
In June 2021, the story broke that Donald Trump had asked advisers and lawyers to investigate whether the Department of Justice could probe sources of satirical late-night comedy, like Saturday Night Live, that made fun of him.1 The fact that Trump would melt down, usually on Twitter, after he saw satire critical of him had been surprising enough.
In late 2020, during the dark days of pandemic lockdown and a global universe plunged into a shared crisis devoid of unanimity, the subject of impending anniversaries arose. It was then, in a gesture of optimism for an unknown future, that the idea was hatched for an FQ dossier dedicated to the then-impending ten-year mark to commemorate the 2011 uprisings known as the Arab Spring.
A young black woman dressed to signal a 1920s time frame walks along an empty country road, holding an umbrella. She stops in front of a white man sitting beneath a large tree, slowly kneels in front of him, and removes her hat. We see a close-up of his hand before shifting to hers. She begins ripping his white robe, a garment unambiguously suggestive of a Ku Klux Klan costume.
The 2019 Hong Kong protests witnessed not only sustained physical demonstrations by locals, but also a swell of online digital media that recorded and remixed conflicts between protestors and police. By documenting key moving images that circulated throughout social media and the film festival circuit, White’s essay reorients Hong Kong film studies’ relationship with the digital.