An award-winning short film has been banned in due to a second long scene which depicts the city’s democracy protests. A film society made the announcement on Friday, in the midst of China’s chokehold on free speech.
The aforementioned film club—The Ground Up Film Society—told reporters that it cancelled a Sunday screening of “Losing Sight of a Longed Place” at their film festival after Hong Kong authorities would not allow an uncut version to be shown.
The short film, spanning a mere eight minutes, began as a student project and tells the true story of a Hong Kong gay rights activist. It went on to win “best animated short film” at the 2017 Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan.
Hong Kong censors “demanded cutting a scene that lasts less than a second, as it showed the circumstances of an ‘illegal occupation'”, the festival organisers said in their statement.
The film includes a brief shot of tents and slogans reminiscent of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy “Umbrella Movement” in 2014, which authorities describe as an unlawful occupation in the heart of the city’s financial district.
Due to the massive and violent pro-democracy protests that swept the island in 2019, Beijing has imposed a strict crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong. Critics of the Chinese regime say that creative freedoms have been drastically curtailed.
Last year, Hong Kong’s legislature amended film censorship rules so that works could be banned on national security grounds.
Hong Kong’s Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration said it would not comment on censorship decisions on individual films.
In 2018, the animated short was shown alongside other Hong Kong films at an Amsterdam film festival. The film had also been celebrated by the Hong Kong Metropolitan University, as the filmmakers were students there.
The school previously used the work to advertise its undergraduate filmmaking course, but as of Friday, the film can no longer be viewed on the university’s YouTube channel.