Yan Ki Made in Hong Kong
Switzerland/Hong Kong, 1980, 43 min, color
At a time sweatshops were still commonplace in Hong Kong, Kidlat Tahimik shot a documentary film, commissioned by Swiss-church development aid institutions, on the textile worker So Wan Ming employed by the Swiss lingerie company "Triumph". Due to a workplace accident, So Wan Ming can no longer work and she subsequently takes her employer to court to seek meagre compensation. The documentary focuses on her one-year-old daughter Yan Ki, whose future seems predetermined to that of leading a frugal, deprived life in a working class family.
Kidlat Tahimik’s socially critical view of exploitation, harsh working conditions and overcrowding is here directed from a European perspective. Many of the themes covered in his better-known works also figure here: the family, Asian traditions and the threat they face from progress, market and economic globalization, the mechanization and even the digitization of what were formerly manual skills. Yan Ki’s father, Choi Keong collects tolls at the entrance to a port tunnel and works there with “one of the most complex computer systems to be found in Asia”.
Commissioned by a union of church development aid organizations from Switzerland, the cinematic language is clearly more conventional than in Tahimik’s earlier The Perfumed Nightmare. Another topic featuring prominently is the activities carried out by the Christian Trade Union Council in Hong Kong, which represents So Wan Ming in the courtcase. The considerations afforded the movie’s target audience are reinforced by the German voice-overs that narrate conversations that were evidently scripted afterwards. Tahimik’s customary artistry to translate complex political and cultural issues into effective visual metaphors is barely discernable here. For all that, the delightfully Chaplinesque epilogue also works as a liberating gesture, in which Tahimik as an industrious tailor is buried under the produce of his piecework. By accompanying the family in their daily lives, Kidlat Tahimik also captures images from a proletarian-imbued Hong Kong, which at that juncture was still a production location for cheap clothing and electric appliances and has now long since disappeared.
Camera: Nap Jamir, Montage: K. H. Fugunt, Production Assistant: Patricia O. De Guia, Apo Leung, Sound: Sam Tam, Dietmar Preuss (Post Production), Graphics: Willi Magtibay, Translation: Isot Jacobs (Deutsch), Denis Sarri (Französisch), Voiceover: Sabine Froehlich, J. B. Vitus, Hongkong Christian Industrial Committee: Raymond Fung, Hans Lutz, Lau Chin Shek, Lee Hung Chong, Leung Po Lam, Fung Kam Kuen, Wendy Foon Wai Ling, Elsie Ng, Lawrence Cheung Hui Kwan, Many thanks to: Sister Theresa Dagdag, Sau Mau Ping Young Workers Centre, Hongkong Cross-Harbour Tunnel, Angelican Workers Fellowship, Ja & Philip Lam, Patrick Lui
Produced by: Kooperation Evangelischer Kirchen und Missionen der deutschen Schweiz, Brot für Brüder, Organ der evangelischen Kirchen der Schweiz für Entwicklungsdienst, Author: Kidlat Tahimik