A selection of four short documentaries made during Visiting Associate Professor, Nancy Tong‘s Documentary Video Production class were shown to JMSC staff and students on Friday, May 20, 2011.
Tong’s class contained 15 students; they joined together into teams to produce a documentary as a final project.
The documentaries covered a wide range of human interest stories taken from around Hong Kong, including the two last full-time residents of a Hakka village near the Shenzhen border, the victims of the Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy, an African asylum seeker living in the Chungking Mansions and a vegetable seller in Central.
Wang Xiaojie (MJ 2011) directed the documentary about the African asylum seeker. The other three group members in this project were Zhang Menghui, Cheng Honglan and Yu Shunxi, all students from mainland China.
“The title of the documentary is Living in the Shadow,” said Wang, who is from Beijing. “The story tells the life of asylum seekers in Hong Kong. Some of them fled their own countries because of political persecution, others came to Hong Kong for economic reasons. Most of them come from Africa and South Asia.”
“I was astonished when I first came across the photos of asylum seekers in Hong Kong on a website; they were wearing masks in order to avoid the risk of persecution,” she continued.
“After talking with the photographer face to face, I decided to record their lives on camera. I wanted to call attention to the government and the public about asylum seekers, who are largely neglected and forgotten.”
Wang’s ambition is to become a financial journalist in either Hong Kong or mainland China. She is keen to make more documentaries in future.
Vincent Du (MJ 2011) and Dan Goodman (MJ 2011) co-directed a documentary called The Last Villagers, which tells a story of a remote and nearly deserted village called Fung Hang, near the Hong Kong – Shenzhen border. The film looks at the lives of the last two elderly inhabitants of the village and uses a video journal style to show how their Hakka traditions and lifestyle are disappearing. The other team members were Julian Gaertner and Natalie Deng Ning.
Du, who is also from the mainland, has won a scholarship from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to Goldsmiths College, the University of London, for his second master’s degree course, documentaries, this coming September.
“The JMSC programme, especially Nancy’s class, motivated me to take up documentary making,” he said. “Actually, Dan and I have a long-term plan: if it is possible, we want to make some documentaries together in China in the future.”
Daniel Goodman and Vincent Du teamed up again to make another documentary called Banking on a Long Shot. Other students who worked on the film included Henri Viiralt, Grace Lee, Jessy Yao and Shaad Baig. It’s about a group of individuals who purchased Lehman Brother’s financial products through Citibank and then lost substantial amounts when Lehman Brothers collapsed at the outset of the global financial crisis. They maintain that they were misled when being sold these products and have been protesting for three years now. Citibank is the only bank in Hong Kong that has not yet made a settlement agreement with its dissatisfied customers.
“When I first arrived in Hong Kong I always saw these protestors outside the banks in Central,” said Goodman. “As the months went on and I saw that these people were continuing their protests I became intrigued by them and wanted to understand why they struggled on and what drove them to continue. So I went out and started meeting them.”
Adrian Wong (MJ 2011) is a British master’s student whose documentary is called 33 Graham Street.
The other members of his team were Stephanie Kwan, Peggy Shen and Holly Ip. The film tells the story of a Mr Ng, who is the owner of a wet market store in Central Hong Kong. The film follows his daily life, charting his personal struggles and dreams.
“It’s a classic Hong Kong story as Mr Ng immigrated from mainland China at a young age and continued working in this trade,” said Wong.
“For me personally, his story is the same as that of my parents. Both emigrated to a new country at a young age and had to work hard to provide for their children. What’s funny is the fact that Mr Ng is working hard to support his daughter’s studies in the UK, whilst my parents helped me come to Hong Kong to study at the JMSC!”
Wong hopes to use the skills he’s learnt in Nancy Tong’s class in future, as he would like to work in broadcast journalism. He is interning at CNN International this summer.
“The course is designed to serve as an introduction to the documentary form of journalistic and artistic expression,” said Nancy Tong. “It is a hands-on practical course on the techniques of documentary video production. Students are primed on the various styles of documentary videos. They learn and practice all the necessary steps to produce a short documentary video.”
“I’ve always been interested in TV and film production, so this course enabled me to get first hand experience in shooting and editing,” Wong said. “Nancy gave a lot of advice before, during and after the filming process. With her experience of documentaries, she was able to share a lot of her personal stories that helped us throughout the whole documentary production.”
“We have acquired so much useful knowledge in Nancy’s documentary class,” said Du. “Most of us have never made a film before, so this has been a great opportunity to make our first documentary under Nancy’s professional guidance. She is very patient and even spent some time with us in the remote village we were filming to give us support.”
Tong was delighted with the high standard of documentaries produced by her class this year.
“This year’s four videos are all beautifully crafted and demonstrate the very diverse interests and talents of our JMSC students,” she said.
“Though the subject matter varies from the dreams and aspirations of asylum seekers to the mundane daily life of two remaining residents of a forsaken village, these videos shared a common theme of how people find a way to live with dignity despite of life’s many challenges.”
The students, who are in the process of applying for jobs, said their Master of Journalism course had served them well.
“The courses have provided excellent opportunities for hands-on learning and through them I have been able to develop a well-rounded portfolio, which includes text, photo, multimedia and video pieces. Also, the teachers have been phenomenal — great journalists with incredible experience and knowledge of the craft,” said Goodman.