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  • David Parkinson

Parky At the Pictures (25/11/2022)

(Reviews of Utama; What Do We See When We Look At the Sky?; Amaryllis; Three Day Millionaire; and Hong Kong: City on Fire)


UTAMA.


What a poignant double bill Li Ruijun's Return to Dust would make with Alejandro Loayza Grisi's Utama. Similarly centring on an ageing couple struggling to make ends meet on implacable terrain, this Bolivian saga takes its title from the Quechua word for `our home'. As a former photographer, the debuting Loayza Grisi has a fine eye for the Altiplano landscape. But this is much more than another lament on the impact of climate change.


Long married, Virginio (José Calcina) and Sisa (Luisa Quispe) live in a remote cabin on the Andean Plateau. He herds llamas, while she tends a small parched plot and fetches water from the village pump. They say little and sleep in separate beds, but Virginio and Sisi depend upon each other entirely and are utterly devoted, as is clear when he rests his head in her lap in the garden.


Yet, when Sisi informs him that she needs help carrying water back from the river because the pump has given up, he reminds her that this is her job, while he takes the llama to the dwindling pasture. Aware that the snow has melted from the peaks and that the seasonal rains are overdue, Virginio suggests to a neighbour that they should sacrifice an animal to `sow water on the mountain'.


Sisi is delighted when grandson Clever (Santos Choque) pays an unexpected visit. He has been raised in La Paz and doesn't speak Quechua. Consequently, he can't communicate with Virginio, who wants nothing to do with Clever because he has disowned his father for turning his back on his heritage.


Clever is concerned for them, however, and notices that his grandfather is trying to conceal a troublesome cough when he accompanies him on to the plain. But Virginio refuses to see a doctor and tells Clever that the condor plunges to its death from a mountain top when it knows it can no longer thrive. Moreover, Virginio silences Clever when he raises the prospect of moving to the capital over supper.


Up early the next morning, Clever accompanies Virginio to the village to fetch water. But the pump remains dry and they have to march on to the river. Virginio is dismayed when one of the llamas dies and he has to carry the buckets, while Clever shoulders the carcass. They arrive home after dusk, with the wind whipping up. But Virginio says nothing, even though Sisa is clearly worried.


She urges Clever to keep an eye on Virginio when they trek into the mountains for the rain ritual. He insists he is fine, but pauses en route to gaze at the snowless peak and mumble, `You're dying.' Following the ceremony, the villagers meet and are divided between those who feel the time has come to quit and those who will never leave. So staunch is Virginio in his determination that he argues with Clever in the cabin and Sisa is conflicted because she wants to appease them both.


Frustrated at having his authority challenged, Virginio leaves earlier than usual and collapses after a coughing fit. The flock wanders off and it's only when darkness falls that Sisa sends Clever to find him. He wakes on the cracked ground and staggers home alone. When he wakes next morning, Sisa and Clever are watching over him and she admonishes him for hiding his illness. She also hugs him, as she can't bear the prospect of being without him. But she is cross with him for arguing with Clever and driving him back to the city. Feeling bereft, Virginio wanders into the village and realises how many properties are lying empty.


Clever soon returns, with a doctor, who confirms that Virginio is seriously ill. However, he refuses any treatment and wanders off into the wildnerness, where he is joined by a condor, as he sits and ponders. Overhearing Clever telling Sisa that she's going to be a great-grandmother, Virginio gives Clever a pouch containing a few small nuggets of gold and entrusts him with his hat. Gruffly, he wishes him well and he is proud of him when Clever finds the llamas in a pen in the village and brings them home by himself. At supper that night, they chat happily and Sisa gives her husband a reassuring pat on the hand.


Woken in the night, Clever sees Virginio's bed empty and peers out of the window. Next morning, Sisa realises he has died in his sleep and sobs quietly, as her grandson comforts her. On the day of the funeral, she places on the coffin one of the smooth stones that Virginio had spent a lifetime bringing her. She opts to stay with the llamas and bids Clever an affectionate farewell before heading out with the flock, as rainclouds gather overhead.


Deeply moving without romanticising the plight of those seeing centuries-old traditions coming towards their end, this is a masterly evocation of a spectacular, but inhospitable place and a sombrely fond tribute to the people who have depended upon it for their livelihood. Cinematographer Bárbara Alvarez uses the full width of the screen to convey the forbidding majesty of the landscape, while Loayza Grisi frequently places humans and animals in the distance to emphasise their insignificance and their fragility in a setting that can no longer sustain them because `time has gotten tired'.


It doesn't seem to occur to Clever that his cosy city home contributes to the problems facing his grandparents. But his affection is undeniable, as he tries to persuade Virginio to consider Sisa by seeking the medical help that could prolong his life or make his passing easier for his wife. Yet, even though she would doubtlessly love to meet her great-grandchild, she stays to honour her husband's wishes and take care of the llamas, as well as tend his grave.


A real-life couple who had never acted before Loayza Grisi spotted them while location scouting, José Calcina and Luisa Quispe capture with unforced dignity the silent companionability that characterises long-term spouses who have learnt to tolerate each other's foibles. The gruff exchanges in their cramped quarters allow Virginio to maintain the illusion that he's in charge, but the small gestures and tokens of affection suggest that this is a genuine partnership. As it is with the gentle, undemanding llamas, whose ears are festooned with colourful ribbons.


Their bleating joins Virginio's rasping inhalations and the whipping wind in Alejandro Gillo's enveloping sound design, which is strikingly complemented by the jarring use of traditional Bolivian instruments in Cergio Prudencio's score. But what will linger longest are the silences between Calcina and Quispe, who have no need of words to convey what they mean.


WHAT DO WE SEE WHEN WE LOOK AT THE SKY?


Following on from his audacious debut, Let the Summer Never Come Again (2017), Georgian director Alexandre Koberidze reminds us of cinema's unique power to enchant with What Do We See When We Look At the Sky? Set against the backdrop of a World Cup, its UK release during the tournament in Qatar is perfectly timed. But this exquisite disquisition on the often overlooked marvels of daily life would be a treat whenever it screened.


Lisa (Oliko Barbakadze) works as a pharmacist in the ancient Georgian town of Kutaisi. Giorgi (Giorgi Ambroladze) plays for the local football team. They bump into each other outside the gates of the school, where we have just watched the pupils arrive for a new day. We only see Lisa and Giorgi's feet, but it's clear from their subsequent daydreaming that they have made quite an impression upon each other. Another chance encounter in a darkened street ends in them agreeing to meet at a coffee shop next day.


On her way home, however, Lisa is warned by a seedling, a surveillance camera, and a drainpipe that she has come to the attention of an evil eye. A passing car drowns out the wind informing her of a shocking transformation, but flatmate Maya (Sofio Tchanishvili) lends her some heirloom earrings to keep her safe. They don't work, though, and (following a caption asking viewers to close their eyes) Lisa (Ani Karseladze) wakes looking like a completely different person. Maya advises her to take the day off, but reassures her that her beau will understand when she explains what has happened. However, Giorgi (Giorgi Bochorishvili) is also a new man and he snaps his toothbrush in surprise on looking in the mirror.


Spooked by the fact that he can no longer kick a ball and she has forgotten all her medical knowledge, Giorgi and Lisa keep their rendezvous. But neither recognises the other and they wait in hope, as guests celebrate a birthday and the owner (Vakhtang Panchulidze) tries to set up a giant screen to attract customers during the forthcoming World Cup.


Giorgi and Lisa are convinced the other had a good reason for not showing up. So, she takes a job at the café in the hope he will turn up, while he agrees to operate a test your strength device that the owner has set up on a nearby bridge over the Rioni River to attract customers. Despite working for the same boss, they don't manage to meet.


Meanwhile, documentarist Nino Chelidze (Irina Chelidze) and camerman Irakli Sulakvelidze (David Koberidze) hook up with photographer Ana Odikadze (Sofio Sharashidze). They need profiles of six couples for their film, Stray Dogs Are Caressed By the Wind, and commission Ana to find 50 pairs of lovers for them to choose from. She sets about scouring the town and taking pictures.


While Lisa seeks out Lela, a music teacher friend of Maya who has the power to counter the evil eye, Giorgi prepares for the World Cup by hanging a Lionel Messi shirt on the wall, as he is a big Argentina fan. A stray dog named Vardy supports England and he is annoyed when he is stood up for the opening game by his pal, Mertskhala.


Fans flock to a beer hall on the Red Bridge, but the sun shines on to the screen at the coffee bar and the owner is frustrated. Vardy doesn't like the beer hall and prefers the screen at the kebab shop behind the theatre that has been a popular watching place since the owner's radio broadcast commentary of Torpedo Kutaisi beating Dinamo Tbilisi. A montage follows of kids playing football in slow motion to the accompaniment of Gianna Nannini's Italia 90 anthem, Notti Magiche'.


The sequence ends with the ball floating downstream, as Part One becomes Part Two. As it bobs, the narrator reminds us that future viewers may be surprised that no mention has been made about the violent times in which the action is taking place. Or that fact that over a billion creatures have perished in the forest fires that were causes by greed. Having filled in the global background, however, the narrator resumes his story.


Giorgi has been told to take the hanging bar down by the police and he erects it closer to the café. The owner despairs when 11 children are left to wait for ice cream because Lisa has forgotten to turn on the machine. But he is used to such setbacks and leaves Giorgi in charge of the projector, as the dogs decide where to watch the first quarter final.


As there's no one there, he doesn't switch it on. But he does get to meet Lisa and they are about to share a snack when Ana asks if they would pose as her 50th couple so that she can stop pounding the pavements. Reluctantly, they agree after she reassures them that they won't be selected. But they are.


Business remains slow and Lisa listens to the owner reminiscing about snowy winters in Tbilisi. She also waves at Giorgi when she passes his new spot in a small statue garden, where the challenge is not to hang for two minutes, but to eat three cookies in a minute. They don't recognise each other from their initial meet-cute, however, even when they spend a day together when the boss sends them to collect his wife's birthday cake from a village bakery where all the icing and decorating is done in a verdant garden.


Nino and Irakli come to the café to film Giorgi and Lisa. There's a delay, as the film stock has been exposed. On the day of the World Cup Final, he misses seeing Argentina win 3-1 because he walks Lisa home. The next day, young boys strip off their shirts and paint Messi's name and number on their backs in gold paint.


Following a reshoot at a new location, Nora is ready to show the couples the footage. They all meet at a cinema and Lisa and Giorgi are thrilled with the results because they see each other as they had originally appeared and, with the evil eye banished, they are happy to be together at last.


The narrator concedes that it's a sweet story, but suggests that thousands of intriguing things happen in every town each day. He agrees that this might not be a particularly momentous topic when the world is facing countless crises and he wonders how his children will judge him in the future. But he is content to have told his tale.


Such self-deprecatory musing sums up this knowing mix of social observation, city symphony, and fairytale. From the outset, the narrator (Koberidze himself) takes viewers into his confidence and impishly asks them to close their eyes like expectantly trusting children in order to suspend their disbelief. What follows is both charmingly insignificant and poignantly perceptive, as Koberidze ponders the human ability to keep calm and carry on in the most trying of circumstances.


Next to nothing happens over the 151-minute running time, yet there's always something going on in every corner of the frame. Switching between digital and 16mm, Koberidze and cinematographer Faraz Fesharaki capture minutiae and the momentous with equal reverence, as schoolchildren gather at the gates at the start of a new day, stray dogs pad about their business, friends enjoy each other's company, and potential lovers find the happiness they thought they'd been denied.


Counterpointing the incidents and digressions is a joyous score by the director's brother, Giorgi Koberidze, that's alive to the shifting rhythms and echoes of the city and the storyline. Speaking of family connections, Koberidze casts his parents as Nora and Irakli, who opt for the same impassivity as Giorgi Bochorishvili's Giorgi. Ani Karseladze's is marginally more animated, but the smiles and gestures tend to come from those in the passing parade, who are as often observed in distant silence as they are in eavesdropping close-up. Yet Koberidze achieves an intimacy that makes this playfully optimistic paean to people such a disarming delight, right up until the moment we wake from the dream.


AMARYLLIS.


In 2011, Tom Lawes made The Last Projectionist, a poignant documentary about the Electric Cinema in Birmingham. It came either side of the little-seen thrillers, Demagogue (1998) and Monochrome (2016). He has made a clutch of shorts since, but returns to features with Amaryllis, a silent drama that comes complete with a split-screen to show the multi-talented director playing the various instruments on the soundtrack.


Teenager Amaryllis (Ella McLoughlin) lives in the Digbeth part of Birmingham with her alcoholic mother, Jennifer (Liz May Brice). She scribbles in her diary about how much she resents being blamed for the fact Jennifer spends her days in a dressing-gown making hippy mirrors no one buys.


Vowing to leave the moment she makes some money, Amaryllis is lured back to the warehouse where she had watched Roach (Adam El Hagar) dealing drugs. He had confiscated her best board after a chase and he finds her after she has a torchlit spill while doing some tricks. She agrees to make a nocturnal delivery in return for her board, but is peeved when he takes her phone number and claims he'll be in touch.


Confiding to her diary that she's nobody's slave, Amaryllis can't resist the offer of £20 to drop some pills to Bubba (Tanya Myers) on the canal towpath. She's late and gets bawled at by a man she mistakes as her customer. But Roach is pleased with her and slips her a couple of pills for free when she reports to his camper van.


On arriving home, Amaryllis hides them in a box in her white rat's cage. She texts Roach to ask if he is trying to bump her off and she feels wanted when he calls her his `mule'. A montage follows, in which Amaryllis makes drops and stashes the cash in a box under her bed. In her diary, she dreams of Roach asking her to move in so that she never has to see her mum again.


When Roach turns up on the doorstep with an urgent job, Amaryllis panics. But he charms Jennifer, who is in bed with a migraine after Amaryllis returns. She writes in her diary about withholding her painkillers when she's hungover so that she can watch her `wrive' in agony.


Out of curiosity, Amaryllis tries one of the pills Roach gave her and shovels in the second when it seems to have no effect. She is soon tripping, however, and struggling to ride her board. Her hands feel funny, as she sits on a swing in the park playground and she staggers into the nearby funfair. Unsteady on her feet, she tumbles off the board and is spooked when a homeless man (Alex Walton) approaches her for a handout.


Seeking sanctuary in a church, Amaryllis feels the disapproving gaze of the vicar, as she gazes at the light coming through the stained glass windows. Having thrown up, she texts Roach to fetch her and he drops her at home. She apologises for being such a lightweight, but he tells her to stop worrying.


Next morning, he arrives with an invitation to go to Cornwall. Amaryllis resents Jennifer showing Roach how to make a mirror and sulks in the van. However, she soon lets her hair down and revels in learning to surf. They win at an amusement arcade and fool around with the seagulls. He even gives her a driving lesson before they kiss on the beach and make love in the van. But Amaryllis is intrigued to discover that Roach is really called Timothy Barnes-Abbott, when she finds his driving licence.


She is reluctant to return to Birmingham and is furious with her mother when she discovers that her pet has died. However, she is even more crushed when Roach refuses to return her texts or answer her calls. Finding an address online, she hitches to Great Tew in Oxfordshire, where she discovers that his family owns a large manor. But the gardener claims not to recognise the photo and Amaryllis gets mugged by a couple of hoodies after some town girls spot her bedding down for the night in an underpass.


Catching a bus after a kindly Muslim stranger gives her some money, Amaryllis gets home to see the camper parked outside. Bursting in, she finds Roach and Jennifer kissing and she flees with the keys to the van. Buying chocolate and vodka, she makes herself thoroughly sick and is sleeping it off when Roach bangs on the window. He writes messages on cigarette papers to blame her mother for jumping on him and insists he loves her. But he tosses her out as soon as she opens the door and drives off.


As he has tossed her bag out of the window, Amaryllis is able to take the cash she has stolen from his till and buy a super-board from Marcus (Omar). Roach discovers the switch when he finds he only has cut-up newspaper to pay his supplier, by which time Amaryllis has poured the pills away and joined a skating camp in the country.


Despite being filmed six years ago, this is the first feature-length British silent for nine decades. The plot might be set in the here and now, but it's as hoarily melodramatic as anything from the pre-Talkie era, with every stage of Amaryllis's rite of passage being utterly predictable. But, while the narrative feels like a live-action photostory, that doesn't make the project any less commendable.


Without seeking to reinvent a long-dormant format, Lawes finds plenty of neat ways to convey speech and thought through diegetic means rather than slowing the action with intertitles. The animated scribblings in Amaryllis's notebook are particularly inventive, although there are a couple of passages that are too heavily reliant on text messages. Fortunately, Ella McLoughlin's expressiveness capably compensates for the absence of dialogue, while she reels persuasively during the bad trip.


Fewer demands are made on Adam El Hagar and Liz May Brice, but they provide solid support. But the majority of the plaudits must go to Lawes, who wrote, photographed, and edited the picture, as well as directing it. Moreover, his musical contribution is outstanding and the footage at the bottom of the screen of him playing guitars, keyboards, and drums often proves a fascinating distraction from more mundane sequences like the Cornish getaway. Apparently, some screenings with be full screen with live accompaniment. Try to see both.


THREE DAY MILLIONAIRE.


Six years after Louis Leterrier inflicted Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong upon unsuspecting audiences in Grimsby (2016), we're back off to Humberside for Jack Spring's Three Day Millionaire. Screenwriter Paul Stephenson is making his feature debut, but Spring has been this way before, with Destination: Dewsbury (2018). If that derivative road movie revealed a fondness for Edgar Wright, this social-realist crime caper is a cumbersome mash-up between Ken Loach and Guy Ritchie.


Waking on a trawler returning to port, Curly Dean (James Burrows) trots through Grimsby's downward spiral from boom port to backwater. The son of trawlerman, Teapot (Andrew Readman), Curly is heading off on a three-day furlough with crewmate Budgie (Sam Glen) and amphetamine-dependent buddy Codge (Michael Kinsey). However, their boss, Mr Barr (Colm Meaney) is about to cut a deal with a property development company to clear the dock for coffee shops and wine bars. Assistant Charlie Graham (Jonas Armstrong) is livid and tips off his pals that Barr has the proceeds from his dirty deal in the safe.


Curly fancies Barr's right-hand woman, Gilly (Lauren Foster), while Budgie and Codge respectively have the hots for Queenie (Grace Long) and Demi (Melissa Batchelor), a firebrand fish gutter who is known as `Pitbull'. Budgie's mother (Catherine Adams), however, is having an affair with Barr and she turfs the gang out of her house when she catches them having a wild party.


At a nightclub, Charlie tells Curly about the Divine Residential deal and suggests robbing the safe. Gilly overhears and takes Curly to bed, asking him not to do anything foolish. Next day, however, she has to hand out P45s to Queenie and Demi, who also learns that Codge has been lying to her about still being at sea (after he was fired for popping pills). Having slept on the prospect of using the loot to buy a boat and setting up on his own with Teapot as his skipper, Curly agrees to the blag and ropes in Codge and Budgie, who is excited at the prospect of being able to help Queenie and her mum, Val (Lainey Shaw).


Meeting up at a pub with an Elvis impersonator and a drag hypnotist on stage, the friends listen to the plan. Codge thinks it's madness until he learns that Demi is pregnant and joins the crew. She also talks Gilly out of reporting the plot to Barr, as Curly sees himself as a kind of Robin Hood.


Having lifted Barr's fingerprint from a beer glass to get past security, Codge is sent to distract the duty guard with a joint, while Budgie sneaks into his mum's bedroom to borrow Barr's laptop and find the safe's code while he is otherwise preoccupied. All goes well at the docks until Charlie turns on his confederates and leaves them in a room dreaming of fishing in California, as smoke seeps under the door from a corridor fire.


But this is far from the end, as we witness Teapot's funeral and Barr's amusement at Budgie's bungling, as he dreams of opening a wind turbine plant and cheerfully writes off the supposedly incinerated cash in wishing Gilly and her friends the best for a future that looks brighter than anyone could have expected.


Despite capably capturing the look and feel of an embattled port, this is more a study of community spirit than socio-economic conditions. Yet, while the Loachian aspects may be tokenistic, Spring and Stephenson cannily use Grimsby's proud traditions to root the heist in the context of the town's crisis of identity following the decline of the fishing industry. It seems puzzling, therefore, that the ending should see the heroes riding off into the sunset rather than remaining where the hearth is, as this suggests that the prospect of revival is simply an illusion.


Reportedly, Britain's youngest feature director when he made Nails (2016) at the age of 19, the prolific Spring has since added 4 Men & Monica, and A Christmas Carol (both 2017) to his clutch of shorts. This represents a vast improvement on Destination: Dewsbury, as he not only has a better (if still choppy) script at his disposal, but he has also reined in some of the stylistic flourishes that distracted from the action. Indeed, Andrew Rodger's views of the waterfront and the drone shots of the housing estate are effectively evocative.


His handling of the cast also feels more assured, with amusing supporting turns like Matthew Blake's drag hypnotist being markedly less stilted. He's splendidly served by Colm Meaney, who jovially lampoons the gentrifying fat cat caricature from so many `grim oop north' class war pictures. James Burrows also gets away with the clumsy fourth wall gambit designed to make the viewer a conspirator in the chicanery. But the depiction of women leaves much to be desired, with Gilly, Demi, Queenie, and Budgie's mum all winding up on their backs before the first two ride to the rescue.


The female characters are also sketchily limned, not that Curly, Budgie, and Trainspotting clone Codge are in-depth studies in the malaise emaculating millennial manhood. But, while he might have made more of the air of desperation gnawing at the fisherfolk, Spring isn't aiming for in-depth sociological analysis. So, while this geezerish romp can seem a bit ungainly and charmless at times, it's definitely a step in the right direction.


HONG KONG: CITY ON FIRE.


Following the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the `one country, two systems' policy was designed to ensure the retention of democracy in the former British colony. However, many felt that the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance Bill proposed in early 2019 would allow Beijing to override the Basic Law and interfere in domestic affairs. In Hong Kong: City on Fire, documentarists Choi Ka-yan and Lee Hiu-ling chronicle the civic unrest that ensued through the eyes of three students and a frontline activist.


As the protests in March and June 2019 are met with police brutality, a female member of the student organising committee named Yan is shown rallying pro-democracy classmates and stressing the importance of the Five Demands: the withdrawal of the extradition bill; the retraction of the riot status placed on the protests; the release of all those arrested; the establishment of an inquiry into police conduct; and universal suffrage in elections to the Legislative Council.


The removal of Council leader Carrie Lam was also paramount, especially after 21 July, when the police stood aside while a group of white-shirted men attacked protesters at a subway station. Some wanted to meet violence with violence, but the marches continued, with the trademark umbrellas now being held above safety helmets.

We meet AJ, as he takes a day off to go on a date at the mall with his girlfriend, Jennie. Shing Long defies his wife to protest and he is frustrated by the tactic of retreating from barricades in the face of police using water cannons and tear gas. He wants to stand and fight and is moved by the fact that citizens show `solidarity of the street' by providing supplies and offering rides to protesters who need to get out of the downtown zone.


Yan calls these volunteers `sau juk' (`hands and feet') and affirms that they are as essential to the movement as those at the sharp end. She spends her time monitoring live streams and passing information about police movements and arrests to the marchers and lawyers trying to help those in custody. She feels guilty that she eats ice cream while watching such harrowing scenes.


Jennie drives to the police station to bail AJ after he is arrested at their flat. He is released, but faces charges relating to the protests. She is relieved he is free and notes that he is driven by the fact that his mother married a man from the Mainland, who treats him abominably. Shing Long considers his frontline comrades to be his family and admits to arguments with his wife.


When AJ gets caught up in a police action at the mall on 1 October (as Xi Jinping leads the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the People's Republic), Jennie refuses his calls and he threatens to break up with her. Yan attends a meeting with the senior staff at the Chinese University and is appalled by their reluctance to look into claims that female students have been sexually assaulted during the protests. At another point, Shing Long has to calm for calm as a mob besets a woman suspected of taking phone photos for the police.


There is plenty of sau juk support on the streets, however, and Shing Long is touched by their concern for the students taking the brunt of the police response. He tries to help those being cornered, but it keen to avoid arrest himself. AJ becomes emotional when he bumps into some friends who had been reported as missing and he sobs beside Jennie in the back of a car, as they are driven home after an evening dodging police charges.


Principal Rocky Tuan comes in for more criticism from the student body when he refuses to condemn the police after clashes on a blocked road leading to the campus. Yan watches on and, after a night of burning cars and resistance, tells a radio reporter that the CUHK line held and that the police have dispersed.


Shing Long announces that he is going to quit because his wife is expecting their second child and he doesn't want to be `suicided' like some have been on the frontline. But he is arrested and we hear him struggling to breathe as he's being detained. While on bail, he decides to leave Hong Kong to raise his children, but he receives a multi-year sentence.


After 20 months of legal proceedings, AJ is also jailed for over a year. As he describes dreams in which he is caught up in the demonstrations, he wonders if he will see Jennie again after she decides to leave. Yan returns to her law studies, but wonders if the laws she cherishes will still exist by the time she graduates.


Pro-democracy candidates do well in the November elections, as chants for the Five Demands continue. But closing captions reveal that 10,000 were arrested before the Covid-19 lockdown brought the protests to an end. What isn't mentioned is that another 89,000 fled the city in the year after the draconian National Security Law was passed, as people gave up on Hong Kong and sought to build new lives abroad.


This air of despondency descends during the course of a documentary that takes viewers into the heart of the 2019 protests. Such is the visceral urgency of the editing that it's a bit harum-scarum at times and it isn't always clear what's going on. Indeed, Choi Ka-yan and Lee Hiu-ling presume a touch too much foreknowledge and a few more captions or explanatory voiceovers might not have gone amiss.


It's also left unclear where the footage came from, as some of the jerky, handheld frontline imagery is positively heroic because the camera operator clearly came under the same barrages as AJ and Shing Long. The focus on youth makes this an ideal companion piece to Jennifer Ngo's Faceless and Franz Bohm's Dear Future Children (both 2021). But it would be nice to learn more about the sau juks or someone behind the wheel of a `parent car'.


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