ChinaTalks: The Birth of a Community Movie-Screening Circuit in Post-Umbrella Movement Hong Kong and the Department of Media, Cognition and Communication, UCPH, are proud to present Evans Chan, one of the most singularly innovative and diverse figures in the Chinese cultural world to a ChinaTalks lecture with screening of two films films and a lecture on some of the censorship issues created by China’s tightening control of Hong Kong’s political culture.


Hong Kong, being colonized for 155 years by Britain and obtained partial democracy in its final months, was handed back to China in 1997, under a “one country, two systems” arrangement. Yet the ensuing deterioration of economic equity, rule of law and cultural and political autonomy in Hong Kong resulted in an extraordinary 79-day Occupy street protests in 2014 known as the Umbrella Movement. The fear of and discontent with “the encroachment of China” has generated a bunch of independent films reflecting on Hong Kong’s past, present and the future. Leading the charge was Ten Years, a dystopian cinematic envisioning of Hong Kong with self-immolating protesters, PRC-planted terrorists, and secret archives for oppressed indigenous culture. Launched in November 2015, the film gained notoriety when it was criticized by the PRC’s Global Times for being “absurd…ridiculous…and spread[ing] fear.”

Ten Years became a surprise hit, picked up by a number of cinemas. It was hard to imagine why it got suddenly pulled by the cinemas other than for political reasons, since demand for the film was high. Volunteers quickly emerged to help screen the film in different public locations around Hong Kong, including the underside of motorway flyovers, the public steps leading to the Sha Tin Town Hall, and the forecourt of the Legislative Council Complex. The screenings were organized by a variety of community groups, educational institutions, and churches. They were attended by thousands, many of whom were frustrated to have been unable to get tickets before the film was pulled from cinemas. Ten Years was conceived before the Umbrella Movement. But the “infrastructure” of community screenings left by it benefit a number of highly invisible independently produced documentaries, which have a hard time being released in regular cinemas because of their political sensitivity.

These films include Vanished Archive, a film about the 1967 riots in Hong Kong and the pro-Beijing faction’s role in some notorious terrorist activities; and notably Umbrella Movement-spurned documentaries, such as the three-hour Almost a Revolution, the Golden Horse-nominated Yellowing, and my own, Raise the Umbrellas, which has been praised by local media as the most “comprehensive” film about the Umbrellas Movement and the one that ran repeatedly into censorship problems in Hong Kong.

This lecture will discuss these films and some of the censorship issues created by China’s tightening control of Hong Kong’s political culture.

About Evans Chan

Film scholar Michael Berry has called Evans Chan陳耀成 (, “one of the most singularly innovative and diverse figures in the Chinese cultural world.” Chan is a New York-based critic, playwright, and one of Hong Kong’s leading independent filmmakers. He has made four narrative features and eight documentaries, including Crossings (1994), Journey to Beijing (1998), The Map of Sex and Love (2001), Bauhinia (2002), The Life and Times of Wu Zhongxian (2003), Sorceress of the New Piano (2004), and The Rose of the Name: Writing Hong Kong (2014), Raise the Umbrellas (2016). Death in Montmartre (2017) Time Out Hong Kong (March, 2012) has named Chan’s directorial debut, To Liv(e) (1991), one of the 100 Greatest Hong Kong Films. His docu-drama about Kang Youwei, Datong: The Great Society, received the 2011 Chinese-language Movie of the Year Award, presented by Southern Metropolitan Daily, for “returning fuller memories and humanity to Chinese history.” Chan’s award-winning films have been shown at the Berlin, Rotterdam, London, Moscow, Vancouver, San Francisco and Taiwan Golden Horse film festivals, among others.

 A contributor to Critique, Asian Cinema, Film International, Postmodern Culture, Cinemaya, and various anthologies, Chan is the editor/translator into Chinese of three books by Susan Sontag. Postcolonalism, Diaspora, and Alternative Histories: The Cinema of Evans Chan, a critical anthology about Chan’s works was published by the Hong Kong University Press in 2015.  Chan obtained his PhD in Screen Culture at Northwestern University.

"Evans Chan has made a singular contribution to Hong Kong cinema and at the same time a major contribution to the whole spectrum of contemporary film-making. His work achieves a seamless blend of fact and fiction to produce an innovative kind of essayistic cinema, driven equally by issues and by his own experiences and perceptions. He draws on everything from literature and political studies to journalism and social-activist campaigns for his subjects—and on everything from film history to performance art for his images. Best of all, he's rigorously non-conformist: he asks the awkward questions, probes the areas of sensitivity and challenges orthodoxies at every turn."

—Tony Rayns, film-maker, critic and festival programmer

About the movies

Chinatopia: In Datong: Chinatopia, Evans Chan resurrects a potent figure whose life and thoughts have haunted China’s troubled (post)modernity.  Kang Youwei (1858-1927) was China's pioneering dissident and constitutional reformer, who prophesized gay marriage, strove to unbind women’s feet and wrote modern China’s first major utopian tract – an acknowledged influence on Mao Zedong.  While previously known mainly for spearheading the Hundred Days Reform (1889), a modernization drive crushed by Empress Dowager Cixi, Kang Youwei comes alive in Chinatopia mostly through his16 years of exile, which included an idyllic four-year sojourn in Sweden.  Kang’s cosmopolitanism and his Asian American activism astound – an anti-American boycott he orchestrated in 1905-06 to beat back the Chinese Exclusion Acts resulted in two meetings with a conciliatory Theodore Roosevelt.  Chinatopia is an abridged version of Evans Chan’s two-part documentaries, acclaimed by critics and historians, Two or Three Things about Kang Youwei 康有為二三事 (2013) and Datong: The Great Society 大同:康有為在瑞典 (2011), which was named 2011 Movie-of-the-Year by mainland China’s maverick daily, Southern Metropolitan, for “returning fuller memories and humanity” to Chinese history.  Interviewees include Arif Dirlik, Prasenjit Duara, and Jane Larson, among others. 

Raise the umbrellas: Hailed as “the most comprehensive documentary”* about Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Movement, Raise the Umbrellas explores the Occupy campaign protests’ origin and impact.  It traces the rise of initiator Benny Tai and student leader Joshua Wong, while interweaving the communal interaction among “umbrella mothers,” student occupiers, star politicians, prominent media professionals, and LGBT pop icons Denise Ho and Anthony Wong. Incisive and intimate, driven by stirring on-site footage in a major Asian metropolis riven by protest, Umbrellas reveals the Movement’s eco-awareness, gay activism, and burgeoning localism. Various anti-Occupy views, underscored by an interview with the pro-Beijing heavyweight Jasper Tsang, lay bare the sheer political risk for post-colonial Hong Kong’s universal-suffragist striving to define its autonomy within China.