HKIDF2020 - Jurors Notes for Chinese Doc Competition

Winnie Fu, Jury of Chinese Doc Competition


The State of Documentation in an Age of Image Overflow

Documentary film is a process of endless discovery, through which images are filtered through the eyes of the filmmaker before shooting, selected and rearranged for public viewing. In the age of “fake news” and digital manipulation, documentary viewers are particularly concerned about what is real, and how real is real. How is the truth being reflected, and what is not being reflected?

Unlike their predecessors, jurors today tend to pay more attention to matters pertaining to the neutrality of the films, such as the social and political background of financiers and whether subjects have been the initiators of discourses on specific social issues.

Many new directors are not satisfied with just tracking their subjects and the interactions between characters and their environments. Many employ non-linear storytelling so the audience can first get a preliminary sense of the situation, before gradually learning about the characters’ past, and finally understanding the present consequences of their actions. For example, Chen Chih Han’s A Decision, and Heaven Can Wait, which chronicles a mother’s quest for justice for her daughter’s rape and murder, both keep certain pieces of important information from the audience till the very end.

Another phenomenon that I have noticed in the past few years is the way of expressing “characteristics of the present era” while attempting to record the reality of society. As things like calling for justice, unresolved anxiety and resistance become daily routine, the meaning behind recording becomes more unclear than ever. Only two finalist films, In Want of a Mask and Comrades, are from Hong Kong this year, and both are records of events that span only a single day or night. You can call them “non spiced-up,” but their narrow focus begs the question: how can filmmakers of our generation effectively document the new “reality” that has emerged from daily occurrences and repeated incidents? What if it has become impossible to film and select footage of this reality? And even if such footage is filmed and shown, is it possible to counter the overwhelming influence of opposing propaganda? These are some of the issues I hope the festival can provide us with some insight on. 


Winnie Fu is an editor, film critic and curator of exhibitions, design and publishing projects. She was Programmer of the Hong Kong Film Archive from 1998 to 2017, where she curated exhibitions of film history and moving images and edited related exhibition catalogues and programme booklets. In 2017, she founded the cultural organization CoDeCode Limited where she curated a number of cross-disciplinary art and cultural exhibitions between 2017 and 2019.