The Poem of Pakistan – Changing the Media Representation of Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong

The Poem of Pakistan is a short film directed by Ryan Chan Hon-yan, as part of the All About Us Film Festival, hosted by the Hong Kong Arts Centre. Inderjeet Singh, a Sikh-Punjabi born and raised in Hong Kong,  plays the role of Hamza. The actor plays a Muslim man who works as a broker to make ends meet in the unchecked capitalism of Hong Kong. The film is a stark portrayal of poverty and discrimination faced by ethnic minorities in the city.

The screening was held last week at the Louis Koo Cinema, located in the Hong Kong Arts Centre. It was followed by a panel discussion that allowed the audience to talk to the actor and director. Both spoke at length about their inspirations and struggles while shooting this short film.

The film was bogged by production challenges, due to the pandemic. But the theme and storyline developed smoothly. The film touches upon a lot of themes of cultural differences, economic disparity, as well as relocation of immigrants.

Living in Taiwan, the director resonated with the feeling of being a minority. The inspiration for this film came from his observation of a couple of Pakistani men making their way through the busy streets of Sham Shui Po, one of the poorest districts in Hong Kong.

Despite looking different from the rest, their familiarity and sense of belonging to the place made him reflect on how minorities are viewed in Hong Kong. Inder, on the other hand, was reluctant to take up the role of Hamza. He felt that he would not be able to play the part of a Muslim character well. But Ryan managed to convince him. 

Inderjeet Singh, at The Poem of Pakistan film premiere. (Photo by Kaur Kawaljot)

Media representation of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong is questionable, with most minority actors being cast for the roles of gangsters and drug-dealers. This further perpetuates the stereotypes towards ethnic minorities. While this short film may not have portray the struggles of this group fully in Hong Kong, it still sets itself apart from the typical roles people of colour used to play. This is a step forward to open up more conversations and provide more platforms for such communities to speak up for their experiences.

The film has been nominated for The 58th Golden Horse Awards, 2021 Taipei Film Festival which will be held at the end of this month at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan.

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