HKIDF2020 - Jurors Notes for International Doc Competition

Chan Hau Chun, Jury of International Doc Competition


It has been my pleasure and a great honor to be a member of the jury of the international competition section. The experience was not without stress -- I was anxious my limited background knowledge might prevent me from fully appreciating the films, and so I looked at the judging process as a learning experience. This year’s entries cover a wide range of topics from politics and culture to urban development and stories of individuals. As someone who wants to use film to respond to what goes on in our society, I greatly admire these films, and learned invaluable lessons from them -- such as how to faithfully portray a highly politicized environment while avoiding the pitfall of cliché, how to master both the visible and invisible distance between the camera and her subject, and how to change the audience with the emotions conveyed.

In an authoritarian state, creating a record is in itself already a tacit act of resistance.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the subject of countless news stories, but it is still shocking to experience it through the first-person perspective of Palestinian civilians going about their daily life in the occupied territories. The different vignettes in Of Land and Bread are separate but intertwined, and effectively illustrate how the conflict goes beyond land and bread, and is about integrity and freedom. I needed to take breaks when watching this film, as the editing elicits a strong sense of rage, and it pained me to keep staring into the brutal world of the film. It may not be possible for a documentary to cover the whole truth, but this film has captured a lot that is real.

Around the Bed of a Dying Collaborator is another film exploring the same conflict, but the director chose a rather restless point of view. The film chronicles the last days of a Palestinian man who had a stroke after a long career of procuring Palestinians to sell their land. The camera is like a calm participant that possesses both emotions and intellect. In the end, animosity continued even with the man’s death, and his burial plot had to be purchased under a fake name. As we watch the man’s son make his way up a hill, it becomes clear he is overwhelmed by the weight of family and country.

Apart from features, this year’s competition also features various shorts. Although some of them may be less than spectacular in terms of polish, story and visuals, many are truly impressive. Cell 364, in particular, takes us back to the prisons of East Germany and reminds us of the horrors of incarceration and interrogation under an authoritarian regime.

This year’s finalists are all precious records of the reality and struggles of different societies and individuals, confirming once again the fact that the role of documentaries in society should be recognized and emphasized. As we return home from the journeys these films takes us on, perhaps it is time to reflect on how we should respond. Life may look fragile, but we have the freedom to determine its course.



Chan Hau Chun is an independent filmmaker. She graduated from the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong. Her documentary works include 32+4No Song to Sing and Call Me Mrs Chan.