As China’s new security law further tightens its grip on Hong Kong, an inspiring documentary details the journey of one of the region’s most prolific and openly gay activists. 

Denise Ho: Becoming The Song, directed by Sue Williams, maps the life and career of the Cantopop singer Denise Ho, who has used her platform to become an influential pro-democracy activist. 

The film parallels her journey to be herself with Hong Kong’s fight for self determination.

Discovered by legendary Cantopop songstress and actress Anita Mui in her teens in a singing contest, Denise became one of her disciples and songwriters before her solo career started to rise. 

However, success as a recording artist did not come immediately for Denise. 

 “The record companies, they just didn’t know what to do with me and I wasn’t ready to conform to what they expected,” she said in the film.

But she found her feet and started to rise through the ranks. Then in 2012, Denise Ho came out as a lesbian, reportedly becoming Hong Kong’s first major female singer ever to do so

As the film explains, another major turning point came during the Umbrella Movement of 2014. 

“Her public support of students who demanded free elections and occupied central Hong Kong for nearly three months had immediate and lasting consequences: she was arrested and then blacklisted by China,” the synopsis reads. “Under pressure, sponsors dropped Denise and venues refused to let her perform. The film follows Denise on the road as she tours the US, Canada and UK and prepares to release a new hit song, attempting to rebuild her career.”

Then in June 2019, the world watched on as millions took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest the extradition bill. 

 The film depicts Denise in the streets facing tear gas and water cannons, while trying to mediate for and protect the protesters. 

“As the film draws to a close, the fight for Hong Kong continues,” the synopsis concludes. 

Executive producer Helen Siu and director Sue Williams said they were delighted to be working with Kino Lorber to get Denise’s story – and by extension, that of Hong Kong – out to the world. 

“Under the cloak of the global pandemic, China is carrying out a harsh crack down on ordinary Hong Kongers and arresting more pro-democratic leaders,” the pair said in a press release. “Denise’s creativity and resilience are a moving reminder of the power of courageous individuals – and music – in the fight for freedom and democracy.”

The New York Times said the film does an excellent job of introducing the pop star to unfamiliar audiences, contextualising her activism and, more broadly, examining the role art can play in shaping our beliefs.

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