An Interview with Kwok Tat Chun, Kong King Chu (Directors)
The Umbrella Movement was “Really a Revolution”
Q: That so many people—men and women, old and young—participated in these demonstrations felt like the cry of people’s hearts against pressure from the state. Can you tell us about what got you started on the “Umbrella Revolution?”
Kwok Tat Chun (KT): In 2013 Professor Tai Yin-ting, a university law professor, published an appeal to put pressure on the economy by occupying Central (the financial district), calling for people to demand that the government allow citizens to choose their candidates in normal elections. The first thing was my surprise at this—that in Hong Kong it had come to the point where a lawyer, who is supposed to obey the law, would incite the people to illegal actions.
Kong King Chu (KK): Plus, we we had been news reporters and had known social activists from way back, and we were well attuned to social problems. This is an important problem for Hong Kong, so we decided to make a film of it together.
Up to now we’d had social movements in Hong Kong, but most participants had been common people. What we saw as significant this time was the participation of professors, people with a different degree of influence, and how this led to different developments.
Q: How was the Umbrella Revolution viewed within Hong Kong?
KT: According to a university survey, around 1,200,000 people participated in this Umbrella Revolution. The population of Hong Kong is about 7,500,000 people, meaning that participation was pretty high, so I think this indicates that a lot of people desire democratization.
Q: What is the meaning of the title, “Almost a Revolution?”
KK: The Chinese title means something more like “Just Like a Revolution” or “Roughly a Revolution.” It gives the dual senses of feeling that a revolution is going to happen, but hasn’t started yet, and that the atmosphere at the time was so charged with meaning that it feels like it’s connected to a real revolution. Seeing the young people participating I thought: “this really is a revolution, isn’t it?”
Q: How did you decide which people, out of this enormous demonstration, to make the subjects of the film?
KK: First of all, we made people who were deeply involved in the movement the subjects. Then, we got people of various types and different generations, trying to present a diversity.
Q: In the film, there is a scene of a speaker saying “the Chinese . . .” and the crowd shouting “it’s Hong Kongers!” Are there still people now with that sort of consciousness?
KT: It varies by generation and by way of thinking, but young people are feeling a heightened sense of identity as Hong Kongers, and there are many who think of their relationship with China as quite distant. Most Hong Kongers were immigrants from China, so in the past they felt some sort of connection to China. Now there are more Hong Kongers who were born in Hong Kong, and there are many people feel that they have their own culture, and nothing to do with China. There are also people who say that Hong Kong was once a British colony, and now it’s a Chinese colony.
KK: I myself had always harbored a positive image of continental China, and I felt a lot of hope, because in the 70s and 80s the relationship with China was comparatively good. But through this movement I’ve come to reevaluate China. I had wondered just how much the Chinese Communist Party might change thanks to the voices of these people in Hong Kong, but in the end there was no change at all and I was disappointed.
(Compiled by Kusunose Kaori)
Interviewers: Kusunose Kaori, Sato Hiroaki / Interpreter: Nakayama Hiroki / Translator: Tyler Walker
Photography: Yamane Hiroyuki / Video: Kawashima Shoichiro / 2015-10-13