The renowned cinematographer Christopher Doyle is originally from Sydney, but clearly loves his adopted hometown of Hong Kong, as beautifully shown by his latest directorial effort, Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous. The film opens with steady, brave shots of the spaces between Hong Kong’s towering apartment buildings; his love for the city and his sensitive camera convey a serenity which we may not necessarily associate with this dense region of high-rise buildings. This engaging triptych/film, a sentimental mix of the real, the imagined, and the poignant, pays homage to the unique urban beauty of Hong Kong and its rocky beaches and serene waterfalls, tucked-away temples, raucous houseboats, and lush gardens. Doyle brings both an appreciative eye and a citizen’s heart, literally showing us the city’s manifold levels: stairs, ramps, parks, docks, balconies, multi-level buses. These levels form the frame through which we see the different cultural and generational levels on which this place operates and sustains. In the first section, “Preschooled,” children use Hong Kong as their literal playground, roaming streets and neighborhoods with geographic and civic savvy. In doing so, they mark their place in the world and connect non-adjacent neighborhoods. “Preoccupied,” which chronicles the mini-city which sprung up during 2014’s Umbrella Movement, is the strongest of the trilogy; different classes and levels of people occupy different levels of Hong Kong’s main artery roads, creating that kind of utopian community of which they all dream. The cityscape’s levels serve to unite rather than to divide. For all its urbanity, however, it is striking that a few of the Hongkongese (whose stories connect the triology) dream of growing living things, whether herbs, vegetables, or orchids. This speaks to some primal need for the green and the living, but more important, and in the context of this film, for the need to plant roots, to nurture, to create, and to belong.
Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous, dir. Christopher Doyle, 90 min. Pica Pica Media, 2015.
Screened at the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, 21 April – 5 May 2016.