Hong Kong’s film censorship guidelines have roots in the Communist party that developed the city at the start of the 20th century. Most of the city’s movies are shot in the red Communist livery; Hong Kong’s police force, fire services and ports all seem equally red and scandalously short-staffed.
The recommendations are incredibly thorough, which is why on a typical weekday afternoon the posters for Hong Kong features like Twilight and Reservoir Dogs are removed in one fell swoop. The director of a film that was banned described the censorship standards as a “nuclear warhead”. With the number of movies deemed too politically incorrect to appear in 2012 (ending with Diao Yinan’s legendary black comedy A Touch of Sin) beginning to dwindle, the film departments of Hong Kong’s film school have taken on a pretty oppressive role over the last few years.
The academy recently removed the school’s classic description of “Tai Chi Bao Li” (纪人职监 in Mandarin) from its list of banned movies, thus officially legitimising the documentary that traces the film’s history. It is fun to see the new list of “good” films popping up – Shia LaBeouf’s less-than-metaphorical art director character in The Greatest Showman looks set to tick off some rather important cinematic boxes! – but just what sort of film-makers have to survive under this regime?