Movies featuring 2019 H.K. protests shown in Japanese theaters

©Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers
A scene from “Inside The Red Brick Wall”
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Rex Ren, left, and Lam Sum

Two films about the 2019 antigovernment protests in Hong Kong have been running in a Tokyo theater since December, despite being banned in Hong Kong due to the Chinese government’s intensifying control.

The films’ directors have expressed delight over the Japan screenings, saying they represent an important opportunity.

“May You Stay Forever Young” (Japan title: Shonen Tachi no Jidai Kakumei) directed by Rex Ren and Lam Sum tells the story of a group of young pro-democracy demonstrators who are searching for an anonymous young girl who intends to commit suicide as a form of protest.

Lam learned of the underlying episode through social media and began filming in secret. “I wanted to film a story that focused on people’s emotions, such as a desire to save someone” Lam said.

The actors ran the risk of being arrested while shooting the film as they wore outfits similar to those of actual protesters. On one occasion, riot police surrounded the team while they were filming on location. Upon completion, the movie was banned in Hong Kong due to the strict censorship powers of the national security law, which came into effect in 2020.

However, the movie has increasingly been taken up by overseas theaters.

“I made this film for Hong Kong people to see,” said Lam, who now lives in the United Kingdom. “Even in the current social situation, we mustn’t forget the blood and tears that people have shed.”

“Inside The Red Brick Wall” (Japan title: Ridai Ijo) is a documentary about a siege at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Several directors filmed the events of the siege while taking part in the protests and later pooled their materials to produce the movie.

The story explores the struggles of young people surrounded by police and facing possible arrest and having to choose between fighting to the end or escaping.

One filmmaker who spoke on condition of anonymity with The Yomiuri Shimbun, said: “Should the decision of those young people be criticized? I want people to think about what they’d do in the same situation.”

The movie was criticized by pro-China newspapers and has not been shown in Hong Kong, but it has won numerous film festival awards around the world.

“The film has become a way to connect Hong Kong people who have dispersed overseas,” the filmmaker said. “We’ll keep searching for ways to tell the story of Hong Kong, even under the restrictions.”

The two movies are currently being screened at Polepole Higashi-Nakano in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, and will be released sequentially in Osaka, Miyagi, and other prefectures.