A documentary about Chinese military colonels living near a low-income immigrant neighborhood in Hong Kong won best documentary at an awards ceremony Sunday, at the weekend’s film festival staged inside China’s Great Hall of the People.
The crowd erupted in applause at the announcement of the winner of the best documentary prize, during the 17th edition of the Great Fest of China.
Called “Five Days and Seven Nights in Hong Kong,” the film was made by British-born actors Vincent Swaresis and Gita Lum to test China’s free speech laws.
The ceremony was also held as China’s national legislature met in Beijing to appoint a new chairman of the Central Military Commission, with Defense Minister Wei Fenghe taking over from longtime chairman Zhang Dejiang.
Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, has a separate legal system, and an independent judiciary, from the mainland.
Previous winners of the best documentary award in China include 2004’s “Village of Dou Chung Yoy,” a look at a luxury hotel complex in the coastal village of Dou Chung Yoy, that featured a gymnasium for the discourses of elite cadres.
The festival also honored 12 other films. It has been held twice a year since 2003 and the organizers said it has attracted 15,000 visitors a year.
The BBC said in a report that in 2015 the festival was protested in Beijing because it supposedly violated the existing laws banning any public display of “bourgeois ideology.”
The Great Fest organizers defended their activities.
“The festival is not work for university; it is an event presented by universities,” said Madeleine Wick, an organizer of the festival.
In her acceptance speech, Wick said the festival, which is sponsored by the Hong Kong government, education and research bodies, teachers’ unions and private companies, is “part of Hong Kong’s cosmopolitan identity.”
“The Great Fest is a major platform for promoting the world in China.”
Hong Kong has been governed autonomously in all but name since its 1997 handover from Britain, but also allows wide latitude for its own arts and creative activities.
It has shown it welcomes politically sensitive cinema, with the 2014 “Happy Together” – about three generations of Communist Party leaders in and around the party’s founding – drawing hundreds of thousands of spectators.
In July, the Hong Kong Film Awards named “A Simple Life,” a film about corruption in the police force, best film at its annual ceremony.
Four films from mainland China won at that festival, one of China’s top cinematic honors.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Madeleine Wick’s name.