19 April 2019
Lost In the Fumes is an award-winning documentary by Nora Lam (right) about former Hong Kong Indigenous spokesman Edward Leung. Photo: Internet
Lost In the Fumes is an award-winning documentary by Nora Lam (right) about former Hong Kong Indigenous spokesman Edward Leung. Photo: Internet

Cinemas won’t show documentary on localist leader Edward Leung

An award-winning documentary on prominent localist Edward Leung Tin-kei has been shut out from commercial cinemas, although it has attracted full-house audiences whenever it was shown in cultural venues, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports. 

Directed by Nora Lam Tze-wing, Lost in the Fumes delves into the mindset and experiences of the young activist, who has been trying to defend Hong Kong’s freedoms amid what he perceives as Beijing’s encroachment on the city’s autonomy and democracy.

Leung, the former spokesman for the localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, was sentenced to six years in prison on Monday by a High Court judge for rioting during the Lunar New Year clashes with police in Mong Kok in 2016. He was also given a 12-month jail term for assaulting a police officer. The sentences are to be served concurrently.

The movie, which made its premiere in November last year, was one of the eight recommended films of 2017 by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society. It also won the Special Jury Prize of the Chinese Documentary Award at the 2018 Taiwan International Documentary Festival in May.

Despite the acclaim it has won, however, not a single commercial cinema in the city has agreed to screen the documentary since its release.

So far it has only been shown in a few cultural venues, such as the Hong Kong Film Archive and Hong Kong Arts Centre, where tickets had been usually sold out before it was played.

Based on the current political climate in Hong Kong, it is understandable why cinema operators are quite hesitant to screen the documentary.

Vincent Chui, artistic director of Ying E Chi, a distributor of Lost in the Fumes, said that although the documentary is a crowd-puller, cinemas obviously do not want to earn Beijing’s ire, considering their investment and expansion plans in the mainland.

Ying E Chi, a non-profit arts group founded by a group of Hong Kong independent filmmakers, was rejected every time it approached a cinema operator for a screening of the documentary, Chui said.

So far, the movie has been shown to some 7,000 viewers, which would translate to a box-office revenue of HK$700,000 if screened in regular cinemas, he said.

Director Lam, a Comparative Literature and French graduate of the University of Hong Kong, said the most common excuse used by cinema operators in rejecting the documentary is that they have a full schedule, although some have told her in private that such kinds of films cannot be shown in regular cinemas, without providing a clear explanation.

Nonetheless, Chui said he will continue to try to have Lost in the Fumes screened as a “normal” movie in commercial cinemas in order to reach a wider audience.

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