Hong Kong Film Review: Still Human (2019) - Domestic Helper's Hong Kong Dream

Updated: May 5

#FilmReview #StillHuman #影評 #淪落人

FILE PHOTO: A Poster of STILL HUMAN (2019). ©Golden Scene Company Limited

First Feature Film Initiative


Hong Kong government got started filmmaking subsidies like Taiwan due to decades of stagnation since 1993. It's the first democratic film financial program in the Hong Kong film history(1897-). In the past, there was no such governmental fund like First Feature Film Initiative before 2013. This subsidy program is more advanced than any Taiwan film subsidies that it correctly prevents usurpation, domination and privatisation of state subsidies by a certain small interest groups.


The aim of the FFFI is to support new directors and their film production teams to make their first feature films on a commercial basis in order to nurture talents for the film industry. (1)


It funds at most three films per year in two categories like professional teams and students. As the result, the 3 major Hong Kong film schools (Hong Kong Baptist University; Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and City University of Hong Kong) themselves still have no filmmaking subsidies however any students can make their first commercial feature films by this subsidy. This drama genre film was made by this policy. And it is the most successful student made commercial feature film in Hong Kong. The budget is 5 millions for students and 8 millions for professionals in 2018.


Other domestic film financing resorce, The Film Development Fund (FDF) also funds professionals but not students with state subsidies since 2008. These state subsidies are for local productions not for coproductions with Mainland China basically. (2)


On the contrary, Japan's top film school TUA (Tokyo University of the Arts) had ceased their first commercial feature film program for students in 2015. That was a leading film school policy which actually worked in Japan for the first time in Asia during 2007 to 2015 even US did not have such a program. And HK students now actually enjoy the similar financial support and cooperations with film industry.


The main aim is to let students and professionals firmly establish their own production teams for future independent projects. That is critically important especially for students.


Foreign Domestic Helpers in Hong Kong


5% of Hong Kong population; 99% of them are females; the total amount in recent years is about 400,000 including the two major ethnicities such as Indonesians and Philippines. They have no rights to live outside of employers' residents as resident workers for cleaning, bringing stuff, cocking, taking care of children, disabled and aged members, and doing what ever host families require them to do.


They can only have statutory holiday that is generally only Sunday. And there is no much freedom. Parks and streets are full of them in their holiday due to gatherings and sending purchased goods to their home countries. The weakness is not only law regulations and Hong Kong Chinese people's racist bias against them, but also it is language Cantonese.


The film's protagonist Evelyn Santos (Crisel Consunji) also suffers typical cultural barriers such as deception and bullying by market petty capitalists on daily purchase for their cocking. Dir.Oliver Siu Kuen Chan maturely depicted the typical situations in which the most of foreign house helpers suffer in Hong Kong everyday. We can grab it in short word ''denial of human rights.'' Their social lives and activities are completely divided in this city visually even in their houses. Chats in carbon sheets, closed doors, obvious social separations of both Chinese and them etc....they only together with them when they work for the host families.


However, this film cannot create Spartacus of poor foreign domestic home helpers for them. Instead, Dir.Oliver Siu Kuen Chan pursues capitalistic individualist dream as their social solutions.



Spartacus of Poor Foreign Domestic Home Helpers?



The disabled construction worker, protagonist Cheong-Wing Leung was well created by Anthony Chau-Sang Wong 's brilliant acting. You can see realistic approach and generalisation of the social situation is highly embodied in characters. It should be aesthetically complimented. This film's production value is undoubtable that it is the best technical achievement among all current Hong Kong films including co-productions with Mainland China yet it does not exceed capitalistic individualist dream that it still sees ''turning into the opposite social class'' as an individual solution in society.


In this film, Evelyn Santos who seeks photography job just follows the legendary house helper who married to rich bank manager and became a capitalist who hires other house helper. Capitalistic individualism for themselves is not for others in its nature. It won't make them Spartacus of poor foreign house helpers. Evelyn Santos first turns down offers but finally accepts studying abroad to France after the award winning and Cheong-Wing Leung 's arrange. Her individualism wins and reveals at the last sequence. Moreover it is not persuasive if she loves him so much.


''Turning into the opposite social class'' is a suggested solution in this film as Hong Kong/ China/ American Dream.


Thus, there still is certain necessity to create Spartacus of foreign house helpers who bravely tries to liberate the entire social class as their comrade. Of course, this must cross the redline to make films for the oppressed class. They should know that true hero, true protagonist is who tries to liberate the oppressed class not just save him/herself by becoming oppressors.



Notes:

(1) https://www.createhk.gov.hk/fffi/tc/ accessed 4/16/2019.

(2) https://www.fdc.gov.hk/en/services/services2.htm accessed 4/16/2019.


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Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to the professional film writer Ryota Nakanishi as author and a link to www.ryotanakanishi.com is provided.

This film article is for educational purpose only.




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