Taiwanese documentary screening canceled at Hong Kong film festival after censors demand protest scenes be removed

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The screening of a documentary on migrant workers in Taiwan has been canceled after Hong Kong censors demanded the removal of protest scenes, according to the director of the film.

The lucky woman. Image: screenshot.

The Taiwanese documentary The lucky woman was originally to be screened as part of the Hong Kong Arts Centre’s ifva All About Us Film Festival 2022 October 30.

However, the documentary’s director Tseng Wen-chen announced Monday evening on the film’s Facebook page that she had decided to withdraw the film from the festival. She said festival staff informed her that the Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration (OFNAA) would not approve screening of The Lucky Woman without the removal of certain scenes.

Tseng told HKFP that OFNAA had called for the scenes of migrant workers gathering in front of Taiwan’s presidential office building to be removed, saying government censors viewed the scenes as a “protest.”

IFVA All About Us Film Festival 2022. Image: screenshot.

“This footage is considered ‘normal’ in Taiwan – I just wanted to present the situation at the scene of the protest. Suddenly – and sadly too – it cannot be screened in Hong Kong,” Tseng said, adding that she looked forward to talking about the issue of migrant workers with a Hong Kong audience during the post-screening discussion.

On Tuesday, the documentary was still listed on the festival website, however, the online box office for the film had closed. HKFP contacted ifva for comment, while OFNAA said it would not comment on individual films.

A synopsis of “The Lucky Woman” on the ifva website. Image: screenshot.

Tseng, who won Best Documentary at Taiwan’s prestigious Golden Horse Award in 2002, spent six years filming two Vietnamese workers who were living illegally in Taiwan. The lucky woman has already been selected for the Taiwan International Documentary Festival 2022 and the 2020 Women Make Waves International Film Festival, and will screen next month as part of the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in Tokyo.

Second ifva screening canceled

This is the second time a film has been removed from an ifva festival. Hong Kong director Erica Kwok, whose short film was to be screened as part of the ifva Awards, was informed that the film did not pass the OFNAA evaluation in June.

At least seven films did not pass OFNAA’s evaluation this year, most of which were short films slated for screening at festivals, according to HKFP’s database. Of those seven, OFNAA told HKFP that two films were not allowed to screen this year — not even with cuts or edits.

Hong Kong Arts Center. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Separately, screenings of two shorts scheduled to premiere at the Fresh Wave International Short Film Festival were canceled after OFNAA failed to respond to their submission for review.

Last week, an event organizer canceled the screening of a Batman movie on OFNAA’s recommendation that his level of violence was “not appropriate” to be shown outdoors.

The government said last year that the updated Film Censorship Ordinance “aims to ensure more effective compliance with the obligation to safeguard national security as required by the National Security Act”.

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