“Raise the Umbrellas” Reigns Supreme

Julia Klein, Arts & Features Assistant Editor

Members of the Colgate community and students in the Music, Film and Media and Global Theater courses gathered in Golden Auditorium on Friday, Feb. 16 for a showing of Evans Chen’s documentary Raise the Umbrellas.

Director of the Film and Media Studies Program Mary Simonson opened the evening with a brief introduction to the 2016 film. The movie follows various generations of activist leaders involved Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Movement, in which citizens united against the Chinese government and fought for their democracy after being liberated from British Hong Kong. While the pro-Beijing government wanted to select candidates for Hong Kong citizens to choose from in their elections, the public took to the streets of the city to rebel. The movement’s name stems from the use of umbrellas by protesters to protect themselves against teargas and toxic substances thrown into the crowds by national police.

Simonson noted that Colgate was one of the few places that the film was shown in the U.S. as it currently has no U.S. distributor. Rather than being shown commercially, the film has primarily been screened at film festivals and events in China instead.

The film displays the interactions between various generations of protesters; it was the university students who played an integral role in mobilizing the protests and occupying Hong Kong. Student leader Joshua Wong was responsible for leading over 120,000 protesters and though only 18 years old, was considered a public figure. The film also follows the stories of Occupy Central initiator Benny Tai and the founder of the Hong Kong Democratic Party Martin Lee.

“It’s important to have a documentary that captures and tells that story. It’s an interesting window onto both everyday life in Hong Kong and Hong Kong’s negotiation of their identity and postcolonial state in a new relationship with China,” Simonson said after seeing the film for the first time herself.

One of the most engaging storylines was that of Cantopop singers and LGBTQ activists Anthony Wong and Denise Ho. The two became invested in the fight for freedom, using both their talent and platform to further the cause.

Since many students in the audience are currently studying the role that sound plays in film, this was a particularly notable feature. One of Wong’s songs, “Raise the Umbrella,” which plays as a recurring melody in the film’s soundtrack, became the official song of the movement. The use of the track was powerful as the director emphasized that cultural icons played a massive role in creating unity among the population.

“I also really enjoyed seeing the ways artists were engaged with activism and the power of student action around national issues,” Simonson said.

Ultimately, after more than 75 days of protests, the Umbrella Movement ended. Movement leaders were both tried and arrested.

However, the film presents the idea that while the protests ultimately didn’t accomplish much, the movement was effective in bridging together generational gaps through an important and new type of discourse for the country.

“It was an important movie and I really enjoyed learning more about the Umbrella Movement,” senior Megan Manning said.

Raise the Umbrellas is a powerful representation of the fight for democracy and individuality throughout the world.

Contact Julia Klein at [email protected]