In the midst of one revolution, it can be energizing to look to others for inspiration. As Black Lives Matter protests continue to thrive across the globe, organizers and activists have been sharing images and resistance tactics used in Hong Kong protests, whether it’s tips on dismantling a tear gas canister to protecting your identity from government surveillance. In the middle of Pride month, there couldn’t be a better time for a documentary about a queer activist who risked a successful music career to speak truth to a very intimidating power.
Directed by veteran documentary producer Sue Williams, “Denise Ho: Becoming the Song” follows the lesbian Cantopop icon on her journey from artist to activist, illuminating the ways her journey aligns with Hong Kong’s relationship to China. The exclusive first trailer for the Kino Lorber release promises Ho will serve as a magnetic and inspiring guide through a topic that couldn’t be more timely.
The official synopsis for the film reads: “Denise Ho came out to the world as a proud lesbian in 2012 at the Hong Kong Pride Parade, the first major female star in Hong Kong to come out as gay. In 2014, at the height of her career, she started to publicly support the students who were demanding free elections during the Umbrella Movement (protesters held up umbrellas to fight off tear gas). Her influential involvement at the forefront of the pro-democracy uprisings led to her arrest during a clearing of protest camps. The financial and social cost to her was enormous. She was blacklisted by Mainland China, her music banned. As a result major commercial and luxury sponsors like Lancôme dropped her, colleagues feared to be associated with her, and venues around the world to this day are afraid to allow her to perform.”
Williams began following and filming Ho in 2017, as she toured the UK and North America as an independent artist, attempting to rebuild her career while continuing to take to the streets with Hong Kongers during the massive protests of 2019.
“Under the cloak of the global pandemic, China is carrying out a harsh crack down on ordinary Hong Kongers and arresting more pro-democratic leaders,” said Williams in an official statement. “Denise’s creativity and resilience are a moving reminder of the power of courageous individuals — and music — in the fight for freedom and democracy.”
“Denise Ho: Becoming the Song” will have its virtual World Premiere with Frameline Film Festival on Friday, June 26, including a Q&A with Williams. The film will be available by virtual cinema through Kino Marquee starting Friday, July 1. The film’s July 1 virtual theatrical release date was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. The film is being released in solidarity with the annual protests marking the handover of Hong Kong to China.
Check out the film’s trailer and poster, available exclusively on IndieWire, below.