Getting banned from mainland China, being arrested in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, popping out publicly as a lesbian, and touring the world as a pop artist looks as if an excessive amount of to suit into one lifetime. Nevertheless, as chronicled within the documentary, “Denise Ho: Changing into the Tune,” Denise Ho has lived by all of this and extra.
The 2020 documentary directed by Sue Williams was proven on the eleventh annual Athena Film Festival. The documentary profiles Ho, whose music and profession have turn out to be more and more intertwined with the cries for democracy and freedom in Hong Kong.
This yr, one of many objectives of the Athena Movie Pageant is to showcase feminine management and girls who resist each preconceived notion of womanhood. Ho does precisely this by standing up towards established powers, being open about her sexuality, and making her voice heard—whatever the penalties.
The movie opens with footage of Ho performing extravagant exhibits to huge crowds in Hong Kong. The viewer is then instantly transported to a dressing room at a small venue in New York Metropolis whereas the gang chants, “Free Hong Kong!” in call-and-response model. The juxtaposition between sold-out arenas and small efficiency halls represents the injury Ho’s activism did to her profession.
Ho spent her formative teenage years in Montreal, the place her mother and father immigrated after the British handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997.
“I believe Canada modified me utterly. If I didn’t go to Montreal, would I be the identical particular person? Would I’ve the identical ideologies and the identical beliefs, the values and all that? And the reply might be no,” Ho says within the movie.
Anita Mui, a Cantopop icon, was Ho’s greatest inspiration rising up. Not solely did she honor Ho’s Hong Kong roots that had been far-off from Montreal, however she was unapologetically daring and one in all Hong Kong’s first feminine artists to carry out in elaborate costumes, make-up seems to be, and lighting. Ho was additionally impressed by Mui’s activeness in social points, particularly her efficiency at Live performance for Democracy in China the place she confirmed her help for the scholars at Tiananmen Sq. in 1989.
Ho and Mui met in 1996 in Hong Kong after Ho received a singing contest. She wrote to Mui each few weeks asking to turn out to be her mentee, and Mui ultimately took her on. They toured collectively and Ho sang vocal backups on her albums. Ho’s profession quickly took off, releasing her first album in 2001.
The documentary options a number of footage from Ho’s performances. As she sings in Cantonese, English translations of her lyrics seem on the display screen in delicate cursive script. When she carried out at full arenas, she had elaborate units and wore flashy outfits and make-up. At her more moderen performances, she wore tender clothes, like flannel, and performed an acoustic guitar.
Even within the early days, Ho’s lyrics echoed messages of freedom, democracy, and revolution. The primary track Ho wrote was “A Thousand Me,” which is an expression utilized in revolution.
“Individuals would say, ‘Even when I die, there would nonetheless be one million and a thousand individuals like me who would proceed,” Ho defined.
By no means would her phrases be extra related than in 2003, when after battling cervical most cancers, her mentor Mui handed away.
“It was very blended emotions as a result of I’m nonetheless very honored to be her disciple, however I actually wished to construct my very own uniqueness,” Ho mentioned.
Constructing her personal uniqueness was precisely what she did. She wore pantsuits as an alternative of attire, and stopped attempting to reside as much as the picture of her mentor, Mui. In 2012, Ho marched within the Homosexual Satisfaction Parade and determined to return out publicly as lesbian to help laws defending homosexual individuals from discrimination in Hong Kong. She was the primary mainstream feminine singer in Hong Kong to take action.
Ho additionally elevated illustration of LGBTQ rights in her music. Earlier than popping out, she wrote “Louis and Lawrence,” a track a few gay couple.
“‘Louis and Lawrence’ actually pushed music listeners to consider what love meant, to problem gender norms,” defined Jeffrey Ngo of Georgetown College within the movie.
Ho made headlines for popping out in 2012, however she made much more headlines in 2014 when she began showing at pro-democracy protests, higher generally known as Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Motion,” as a result of protesters used umbrellas to defend themselves from tear fuel.
Regardless that protesting would hurt her relationship with China, Ho used her platform to face up for the values she believed in. At protests, Ho sang, gave interviews to the press, and took part in a sit-in the place she was arrested in December 2014. It’s a highly effective scene within the movie—the police take Ho by the arms, and he or she stares forward with a straight face, peacefully going with them.
Nevertheless, not each encounter with the police was this peaceable. The movie depicts quite a few cases of police brutality towards peaceable protesters, individuals being taken away on stretchers, in addition to tear fuel and bullets.
After her arrest, Ho was banned from Mainland China, the place 80 to 90 % of her jobs had been. She misplaced a sponsorship with Lancôme, and even to this present day, she can’t carry out in any main venue in Hong Kong.
Nevertheless, Ho didn’t let these obstacles get her down. She protested in 2019 towards the extradition invoice, pleaded with the United Nations to guard the individuals of Hong Kong, and spoke on the U.S. Capitol for a Congressional-Government Fee on China.
She nonetheless performs when potential, and her message to withstand has not modified. Within the opening scene with Ho in New York, she makes it clear she is just not completed but.
“Proper now our persons are getting ready to battle. We’re gonna shake up the powers that be,” Ho sang.
As she says within the movie, Ho is extremely optimistic concerning the future due to her followers’ dedication.
“Celebrities within the Chinese language, Hong Kong, Taiwan communities, they preserve their ideas to themselves,” Ho defined. “The truth that I’m so loopy, my followers see themselves in me. That particular person that’s hidden very deep inside. The claps are literally for themselves, to clap this hidden particular person out.”