Do Not Split


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Do Not Split
"Hammer's documentary, by the nature of being a short film, remains a snapshot from a specific angle"

Anders Hammer's strong reportage documentary starts to follow protesters in Hong Kong in 2019 as they embark on a series of demonstrations over the threats to democracy increasingly faced there in the wake of the handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Predominantly, though not exclusively, driven by young people, keen not to lose the freedoms they have previously enjoyed, the protests were particularly in response to a planned law to allow the extradition of people for trial in China, although more generally the unrest had been building about the creep of Chinese power and repression in the territory for a long time.

Hammer embeds himself in the protests as the police response to them begins to escalate. He outlines the political stakes through a mixture of intertitles and interview snippets with protesters, who talk about the importance of democracy and their fear of the "purging" that is now occurring in their homeland. "The British handed us over to China like a bag of potatoes," says one.

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All the time, the police brutality is evident - local residents who ended up bloodied just by being at the wrong place at the wrong time, a group of tourists left traumatised - with Hammer showing considerable bravery to keep the camera going under fire. When the pandemic arrives, the protests dwindle, something which you can't help but feeling is probably ultimately to the Chinese authorities' advantage.

Hammer's documentary, by the nature of being a short film, remains a snapshot from a specific angle - there are some pro-China protests glimpsed here, for example, but he doesn't widen his focus to explain those, which is perhaps a missed opportunity. British audiences, in particular, will also be familiar with much of the information here, since it remains a prominent news story on our screens. Still, his film offers a solid starting point for those unfamiliar with the current landscape in Hong Kong and, thanks to its Oscar nomination, is likely to raise awareness and, hopefully, international political pressure over the situation.

Reviewed on: 18 Mar 2021
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Do Not Split packshot
A snapshot of the Hong Kong protests over the increasing creep of Chinese power in the area.

Director: Anders Hammer

Year: 2020

Runtime: 35 minutes

Country: Norway, US


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