Jennifer Ngo’s debut “Faceless” tells the story of 4 individuals from totally different walks of like as they take part within the 2019 anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong. Merely known as The Pupil, The Artist, The Daughter, and The Believer, for his or her identifiable traits, and sporting masks, hats and goggles to guard their identities type the police, particularly after the 2022 nationwide safety legislation that sees protests and anti-Chinese language sentiments as acts of terrorism, Ngo and her crew observe them as they put together for and be part of the entrance traces of the more and more extra violent protests which culminate within the siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic College.
“Faceless” is screening on the Black Movie International Festival of Independent Films
Although of various age and backgrounds, The Daughter is the daughter of a police officer, The Believer is a religious Christian, The Artist, a queer visible artist, and The Pupil, a probably radical left highschool scholar with a Zenkyoto-looking helmet, what connects them is their sense of identification. Although ethnically Chinese language, as one among them admits, they don’t see themselves as being a part of China the nation. As a substitute, they need to defend their identification and freedom as Hongkongers, which the Chinese language authorities has tried to erode for the previous twenty years or so. And as Ngo exhibits in a cleverly animated infographic concerning the rising frequencies of unrest, China-kowtowing Chief Govt Carrie Lam, and more and more stricter pro-Chinese language legal guidelines, they don’t have a lot time to combat earlier than Communist Celebration-led China swallows them and enforces on them every part that comes with it.
The protracted protests towards the extraction invoice level to a different downside in Hong Kong society realized by the 4 individuals adopted by Ngo – the police is an enemy. A violent and brutal one at that. We see this finest via the interviews with The Daughter. Coming from a police household and taught from a younger age to think about the police as associates and protectors of the individuals, via the months-long clashes with closely armed officers, she realizes that they’re something however. As a substitute, they’re merciless protectors of the repressive regime. This results in probably the most touching scenes in your entire documentary when she recounts in excessive element how her policeman father discovered about her participation within the protests, beats her, and throws her out of her childhood residence, rendering her homeless. Nothing is ever going to be the identical, she tells the digicam, having realized that her father and her stand on the other sides of the barricade and would by no means be capable of see eye to eye.
Every of the remaining three topics, The Pupil, The Artist, and The Believer, open up concerning the inner and exterior difficulties introduced by the extended protests, however, sadly, the film doesn’t linger on their tales. As a substitute, it glosses over them, and even worse, cheapens them at instances via excessively dramatic music, unnecessarily trendy cinematography, and quick and glossy modifying.
Take for instance The Daughter’s story from above. As a substitute of letting the viewer concentrate on her phrases and altering expression of her eyes, Ngo and her crew resolve to shoot the girl from quite a few angles and splice some b-roll of rain puddles and different pointless issues. That might’ve been high quality, although unneeded, weren’t it for the truth that a number of the angles the cinematographer makes use of is likely to be misconstrued as portraying the girl in a detrimental gentle. It ought to go with out saying that that is removed from what Jennifer Ngo and everybody else engaged on the film attempt to say concerning the protesters, however this concentrate on fashion over every part else recurs too many instances within the film.
Halfway via the movie, because the skirmishes between the individuals and police begin to change into tenser, Ngo introduces to the viewer a set of individuals within the protest referred to as “dad and mom” and “navigators.” Although not on the bottom with the lots, their jobs appear to be equally vital. They first procure giant portions of delicate and very important gear for the protesters, heavy obligation masks, filters for them, gloves, and others, and ship them to their “youngsters” i.e. the younger individuals on the frontlines. The “navigators” carry an equally important operate. Although staying indoors and never on the streets, they assist the protesters by following the actions of the police, predicting the place they may go subsequent, and making secure routes via which the individuals on the streets can escape the violent police.
The 2 teams, “dad and mom” and “navigators,” point out the existence of a bigger construction of democracy fighters and a a lot stronger net of collaboration between Hongkongers than the already giant numbers of individuals on the streets would possibly counsel. Nonetheless, the director glosses this significant facet of the protest group over, identical to she does the emotional and psychological weight of the fixed battle on the 4 individuals she paperwork. It’s exactly via these promised and shortly discarded moments of nuance and depth, and never the unnecessarily glossy manufacturing, that “Faceless” fails to change into a really good documentary concerning the struggles in Hong Kong.