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#HotDocs23 Review: Hong Kong Mixtape

May 8, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The 2023 Hot Docs Film Festival ran from April 27th to May 7th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

In her fast-paced and engaging documentary Hong Kong Mixtape, director San San F Young offers a vibrant look at the young artists in Hong Kong keeping the spirit of protest alive through their work, in the face of the draconian National Security Law forced upon them by Beijing in 2020 that made forms of artistic expression illegal.

Young weaves in her own story of growing up in Hong Kong and her perspectives on the changing social culture in the city, while showcasing the underground artists who are fearlessly incorporating banned symbols and slogans into their work. Young profiles a selection of these visual artists, singers, and dance collectives using their work to stand up against China, but facing a society that took to the streets in 2019 in a series of mass protests against the incoming National Security Law, and has now mostly gone silent out of fear.

Young shows artwork disappearing, with slogans spray-painted on walls having now been scrubbed away and only faint shadows remaining. Many of the artists come to the painful conclusion that the time has come for them to leave Hong Kong, and are being forced to flee to the UK or Taiwan. This includes renowned visual artist Kacey Wong, who is featured in the film and serenades us with a rendition of “We’ll Meet Again,” his ode to the beloved city he is now being forced to leave.

Through her multimedia approach, Young brings together different elements of these artists’ work into a compelling cinematic collage that offers a vital portrait of the importance of continuing to create art in the face of creeping authoritarianism. There is a sadness to the final few scenes of Hong Kong Mixtape, but also resilience; art is a form of protest, and the fact that these artists won’t stop creating means that a glimmer of hope still remains.

Young’s film would also make a compelling double feature with Who’s Afraid of Nathan Law? (which also played at Hot Docs), offering a rich, unique companion piece to other documentaries about Hong Kong that focused on the 2019 protests.

Screenings: No more festival screenings, but the film will be streaming online across Canada from May 5th to 9th, and tickets can be purchased here.

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