I moved from the Philippines – born and raised in Manila – to Hong Kong in 2013 to pursue my PhD studies in Communication and Film. I earned the degree in 2018 and even though I have since then immigrated here in the USA, I still consider Hong Kong home. In this post, I share five short films that I shot in Hong Kong. These works remind me of my personal journey while I was living there as a postgraduate student and why this beautifully complex city will always have a special place in my heart.
I felt homesick during my first couple of months in Hong Kong. One day, I decided to deal with it by starting to take in the place, its culture, and spirit. I walked around the city practically everyday.
Hong Kong: Study One (2016) exhibits how the practice of mindful wandering gave me a sense of inner peace and the mind-space to reflect on the essences of everyday life and their respective possibilities for artistic expression. This became the first short film in Life-world Series (2017, 118 min), which formed a part of my PhD dissertation project.
For me, Hong Kong was not just a place; it was an organic being of which I was a part. Through its MTR (Mass Transit Railway) system, I connected with threads of lived experiences. I loved getting on the subway without any itinerary and getting off at a random station. From there I would get deliberately lost. In the process, I would find something new about myself and this place where I lived and which also lived in me. Study Seven: The Street (2016) is my attempt at cinematically rendering this adventurous process that fostered my homing in Hong Kong.
I also relished taking ferries to Hong Kong’s many outlying islands. Now I see that the four long shots that compose Study Twelve: Elephant Island (2017) are like affectionate gazes from a lover.
Hong Kong was where I developed my artistic practice of what I call the “floating flaneur film” (Gutierrez, 2018, p. 180). This city, which taught me to see the essences of living there, being there, and even life itself through my camera, has nurtured in me a certain kind of reflective sensibility. It has created pathways for me to go deeper into my art practice. Study Five: 雨/Rain (2016), a meditative film, portrays how my shared experience of a typhoon – and several others through the years in Hong Kong – enhanced my sense of belonging with the local people and other sentient creatures within the larger sphere of nature.
Study Eleven: Space Exploration (2017) is an experimental short about how our immediate physical reality can serve as a gateway towards our inner lives that house our memories and creative inspirations. I was in a tent on a beach camping trip when I shot this film. Watching it now takes me back exactly to how I felt on that rainy day – I was happy.
These five short films are my love letters to Hong Kong. I yearn to go back to the embrace of this place. It is a key ingredient of who I am. My hometown, Manila, will always be at my core but Hong Kong, the city that I chose and had chosen me back, will always be the one to which my heart desires to return.
Gutierrez, J. (2018). “Investigating Kracauerian cinematic realism through film practice and criticism: Life-world Series (2017) and selected films of Lino Brocka”. Open Access Theses and Dissertations. 525. Available: https://repository.hkbu.edu.hk/etd_oa/525