A Modern Decameron

An interview with artist and film director Rita Hui on her film Decameron. A

Your film is about resilience, how would define this? 

I think after 2019, we (the Hong Kong people) have ben mental prepared about the action from the government. During the time in 2019, one of the slogan which become the most important mind set of HK people “攪炒” “ Laam Chow”, what’s the meaning is “I want mutual destruction”/ “I want damage on all sides”/ “If we burn, you burn with us”. We have prepare the worst scenario, so we won’t surprise of what the government will do to the people. Also. The resisted become the daily activity, that is the normal life we have during the time in 2020, after the social movement in 2019. 

Everyday life in Hong Kong seemed routined, what were you saying to the audience with these settings?

One of the question we asked mostly in the early 2020: “How can we go back to the normal life?” and the further question is “ What’s normal life?” That’s the question we asked when we start to brainstorming the production, and also we want to capture the change of our daily life routine. Authority can easily change the daily routine, and the people can’t do anything to responded. When I go back to the history, hong kong history, and I found the pattern of history was make. The history is repeated. This is not the first time, to give a chance of the authority to control the people freedom. How we re-created the narrative of the daily routine, which is important.  

The Decameron, tales set during a plague, your title “Decameron” please explain the reference.

After finishing the film, we concerned that how can we explain, or situate the theme of film for overseas audience by creating an English name. Decameron came across in my mind, it is a 14th-century Italian novel by Boccaccio. This novel set its plot during a pandemic society, several people escaped from that pandemic and start telling story each other to kill time. Those stories revealed how the society was corrupted. The link between Decameron and nowadays Hong Kong is the downward spiral like initiating National Security Law (which means Reform in the point of view of government) happening in every single day, under the shadow of Covid-19 pandemic. And through the film, you can read different pieces of ours daily life, especially before NSL, it is a hybrid situation (we fight against the Virus and fight for freedom).

Hong Kong is a city with a complicated past, forced separation, now, what looks an unwilling reunification, with parts in different worlds, as a person and a city, how do you process these positions?  

This is a very difficult question. I don’t know how to position myself nowadays. The complicated past of Hong Kong, the colonial city, the immigration people, what we learn about democracy and freedom, human right from the past history, we hope we can be the master of our city. Now, the National Security Law become everything,  we don’t have the free speech anymore, we cant have our own emotion and creativity, we cant stand on our position, even I don’t know maybe my film is “allowed” or not “allowed” to show in Hong Kong under the red line. We don’t know where’s the red line. The film, maybe become the evidence of crime, that would make our crew in danger. Are we breaking the laws? I don’t know. What’s Law? What’s the nation security?

Why the nation security much important than people safety? We have lot of question, especial nowadays. In 2020, the daily routine I want to created in Decameron, which is the resisted from daily life. But in 2021, we hear the bad news day by day, and we can’t do anything. The powerless feeling become our collective emotion, and we don’t know what is next. The film, maybe cannot pass the censorship in Hong Kong, and the film for Hong Kong which is not able to be show in Hong Kong. 

Decameron was screened at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.