The Outlanders – from HKG to SEA
Our Take – Small Axe Radical Short Film Reviews by Cole Diment
The Outlanders – from HKG to SEA is a film that encompasses one Hong Konger’s journey from Hong Kong to Seattle amidst the freedom of speech and democracy crackdowns of 2019-2020, enacted by the Chinese government. Whilst the politics don’t feature overtly, the personal portrait still allows an understanding of the psychology of dislocation and loss.
Our film follows a Hong Konger as they negotiate the trauma of dislocation in Seattle, USA. They describe their experience as one of loneliness and depression, in part induced by the dramatic environmental change from Hong Kong to Seattle. The tone of the film reflects this feeling with languid editing, contemplative piano accompaniment and reflective, poetic shots of Seattle’s skyline and harbour cultivating an affective image of ghostliness and melancholy.
Whilst not overtly political in this styling, politics make an entrance into Azure Kwok’s documentary through the reference to the Hong Kong democracy movement from 2019-2020. We may see the political gain relevance through the identity, or lack, of our subject: with a blurred face and face mask they harbour doubts about the ability to express themselves freely. Such a climate is one we rarely deal in in the UK. In this way a political commonality emerges. If we know not our subject’s identity they may become representative, allowing us to understand the case of freedom of speech for all Hong Kongers. In this way the personal (and the not so personal) combine to inform us of the political.
Surprisingly for our programme the end of this film takes a different tone. There is no hope or possibility for change in the future. With the looming power of Beijing over Hong Kong, and the relative lack of success of the Hong Kong democracy and free speech movement, what hope might there be? It seems that the expression melancholy and sadness at least offers some resolve, some level of community within a shared political experience.