AFM: 'City of Tears' Doc Series Sheds Light on Hong Kong Protests

Courtesy of Subject
Chan’s doc series 'City of Tears' has roughly 12,000 backers via a Kickstarter campaign.

Veteran Hollywood visual effects artist Cori  Chan has taken to the streets of his native country to draw global attention to the city’s turmoil: "I felt like I need to do something."

Since June 12, Hong Kong police have fired more than 5,000 tear gas rounds at protesters. For five months, tear gas has permeated the air inside subway stations, in densely populated residential areas and in alleyways where street food stalls were serving customers. So it is only apt that a new documentary series about the Hong Kong protests is named The City of Tears, a title that also denotes the anguish and despair that has enveloped the city as resistance to a proposed extradition bill — since shelved — has grown into a movement for democracy that has captured the world’s attention.

Initiated by veteran visual effects artist Cori Chan, who is serving as the series’ executive producer and director, City of Tears intends to shed light on the Hong Kong protests for an international audience in 30- to 40-minute episodes, targeted for streaming release in June (Chan is currently shopping the series). Now shooting, it will combine interviews with politicians, scholars, medics and social workers with news footage and scenes shot on the ground by Chan and his crew. "With new angles and materials that might not be covered by international press, we hope The City of Tears will be the missing puzzle piece for the global audience," Chan tells THR.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Chan has a long list of credits working on Hollywood blockbusters including the Avengers franchise, Wonder Woman and Spectre at the London branch of effects house DNEG. He returned to Hong Kong in mid-2019 to spend more time with family, "but in these few months the situation in Hong Kong has been quickly escalating," he says. "I felt like I need to do something with my profession and got the idea for The City of Tears. Since June, the most frequent questions I got from my friends in London was, 'How’s Hong Kong?' I was curious about what they knew about the situation."

While forming a team consisting mainly of professionals in the Hong Kong film industry, Chan launched a Kickstarter campaign for the project in October and saw the initial target of $172,000 reached within 16 hours. Chan, who worked in Shanghai for VFX company Pixomondo in 2011, knows it’s likely he’ll never work in the Chinese film industry again. "I don’t think I would step across the border [to China] anymore," he says. "As I am the guy creating and directing the project with my real name, my friends and family are worried, but this is also the thing we want to show the world."

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Nov. 7 daily issue at the American Film Market.