Hundreds of thousands of men and women fill the streets of Hong Kong, wielding umbrellas as armour. Police brandish batons, and tear gas canisters explode. It is June 2019, and the city’s governor Carrie Lam is attempting to pass a bill allowing China to extradite people to the mainland for trial. Up to a million people march in protest and If We Burn plunges you into the heart of this vast civic uprising, its fervour building as the police backlash grows.
With much of the footage coming from cameras weaving through the crowds at eye-level with protestors, If We Burn brings viewers viscerally close to the pro-democracy protest’s frontline, where violence and chaos unfold on screen as if in real time. James Leong and Lynn Lee deliver an excellent work of documentary filmmaking that marries the urgency of its topic and high cinematic qualities.