“[T]o all directors filming documentaries… Use the lens to record what is happening, remember to keep rolling, keep going, don’t be afraid – shoot first, edit first, and release [the films] first,” said co-director William Kwok.
Coming-of-age documentary To My Nineteen-Year-Old Self won best film at the 41st Hong Kong Film Awards on Sunday.
Screenings of the controversial movie were axed earlier this year amid an ethics row.
The film, directed by Mabel Cheung, follows six local secondary school students growing up in a turbulent Hong Kong over a decade. However, the schoolgirls from Ying Wa Girls’ School complained that their privacy was infringed, prompting Cheung to issue an apology.
But in February, less than four days after it became widely available in Hong Kong, Cheung announced that public screenings would be halted. One of the girls she filmed – Ah Ling – said she had “opposed [the film] being screened in public in any form from the very beginning” in a letter published by Ming Pao Weekly. She added that she was worried about her privacy, and had been “in fear” since first seeing the final cut of the documentary during the premiere.
At Sunday’s event at the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui, co-director of the film – William Kwok – read out a speech by his colleague, Cheung.
Cheung said the documentary provided her with a “small garden for beautiful plants” following her husband’s death, but the controversy “threw her into a dark forest” and she “realised the impermanence of life.”
“However, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s last words – ‘art is long, life is short’ – gave me a lot of inspiration. Thank you to people who encouraged me and supported me during this time, thanks to the industry for its recognition to this film – that I can see the light gradually in the dark. It made me understand that even when life is in a trough, it means that the only possible way forward is up.”
Kwok also delivered his own advice for local filmmakers: “Lastly, I want to say, to all directors filming documentaries in Hong Kong, please keep putting effort into shooting documentaries – don’t be afraid, because documentaries are needed. Use the lens to record what is happening, remember to keep rolling, keep going, don’t be afraid – shoot first, edit first, and release [the films] first.”
In a statement published shortly after the documentary won, Ying Wa Girls’ School apologised for not sending a representative to the ceremony, as the school had sought to pull the film from the awards in February.
The statement thanked director Cheung, producer Eunice Wong, the production team, as well as six students who took part in the documentary: “The school would like to reiterate that, during the course of shooting [the documentary], the team filmed on the principle of consent and knowledge of those filmed. [The team] never intended to force film shoots or to shoot in secret, and we allowed students to quit during the filming process.”
Michelle Yeoh on red carpet
Malaysian Oscar-winning actress Michelle Yeoh was among the presenters, handing the Best New Performer award to 10-year-old Sahal Zaman for The Sunny Side of the Street.
“I feel that I’m a suitable presenter for this award. The first nomination I’ve ever got, was Best New Performer for ‘Yes, Madam’ in 1986,” Yeoh said.
“As long as we fight and work hard with perseverance, and never give up, dreams do come true.”
Source: Hongkong FP