In the early months of 2019, a bill was proposed that would allow for the extradition of certain criminal suspects from Hong Kong to mainland China. The results of this legislation would effectively compromise the long-held autonomy of the Hong Kong people. Fearing a frightening new reality that would lead to unjust persecution, the people took to the streets in an effort to convince their government to retreat from the bill. As the government continued to stall in offering any meaningful action, the protests became more widespread. During a grueling six months of impassioned public outcry, these conscientious citizens became embroiled in an oftentimes violent showdown with police.
Even after the government assured withdrawal from the bill, the protests continued. By that time, the protestors' grievances transcended their initial mission. The people were now fighting for an end to systematic police brutality, amnesty for protestors who had been arrested, and to be free from the label of 'rioter'.
The ongoing demonstrations placed the city at a shocking standstill for many months. Protestors would mysteriously disappear and are said to have turned up dead. Police were said to have fired live rounds into the crowds. Law enforcement officials also hurled accusations of extreme violence on the part of the protestors, including stabbings, shootings and burnings.
This battle culminated in one of the most costly demonstrations in the history of the region - a series of clashes that took place on the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Burn with Us offers no talking heads or academic commentaries on these events. Instead, the film embeds viewers among these protestors as they strategize, unite and engage in an endless stream of stand-offs against law enforcement. Hundreds of thousands crowd litter-strewn streets, airport terminals and university campuses in the hopes that their voices would awaken the empathy of those in power.
The film camera captures every pulse-pounding and tragic turn. It's a horrifying tapestry of roaring sirens, clouds of tear gas, and streets of fire. Viewers will experience the charge of panic that faces those who might lose their lives in their fight to better their lives.
Directed by: Joshua S. Bischof