Roy Chan is associate visiting professor in East Asian languages and cultures at UC Berkeley and associate professor of Chinese and comparative literature at the University of Oregon.
An elegiac corollary to the fiery documentaries that captured Hong Kong’s recent protest movement and ensuing crackdown, Chan’s Blue Island looks at the state of the region in the wake of the 2020 national security law, an era when many pro-democracy protestors have either fled into exile or are in custody. Explicitly hybrid in its approach, the film blurs not only narrative and documentary, but also the years of 2019 to 2021 with a longer history of Hong Kong as a site of refuge, particularly the stories of those who fled the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen. Alongside interviews and observational footage, the film incorporates staged sequences in which the protest leaders of today are cast in the roles of student leaders from 1989 and earlier, foregrounding and rupturing the film’s artificiality. Timely and resonant, Blue Island grapples honestly with the fact that, despite valiant efforts, Hong Kong as we once knew it is no more.