Hong Kong’s film sector, once famous for world-class movies, was already struggling before the latest setback: Chinese mainland-style censorship as authorities expand their sweep of dissidents into the cultural arena.
When the email from the government censors arrived, filmmaker Mok Kwan-heart ling’s sunk.
Authorities said in June that all films will be reviewed for “national security” violations. The first known violation of these restrictions was at Mok’s.
She’d been working on her debut for months, a 27-minute drama inspired by the many young couples she met during massive democratic protests two years ago.
It’s about a young woman who meets her boyfriend’s parents after he’s detained for participating in protests. His mother is hostile to the movement, while his father is supportive.
The Cantonese title “Zap Uk” (meaning “clean up the house”) refers to how once a loved one was detained, friends and family would often remove any incriminating objects.
But, according to Mok, Hong Kong’s film censors were unhappy with the material and ordered her to make 14 edits.
They demanded that a remark from the father stating that their son was a volunteer first responder who was “just out there to save the people” be removed, as well as a scene where the same character, a truck driver, charges demonstrators a discounted rate.
The censors also ordered that the picture be renamed and come with a disclaimer stating it depicted criminal activity.