Local Filmmaker’s Long Hair Revolution

By Rachel Betts-Wilmott

Once upon a time, deep in the heart of merry olde England, lived Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men. Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor, he defended their rights against the evil Sheriff of Nottingham and the cowardly Prince John. Seven hundred years later, the myth now defunct and Bush in the Whitehouse, those willing to stand up for the voiceless are in short supply. There is one willing to answer the call however; he wears protest t-shirts, not green tights, and sits on the Legislative Council of Hong Kong rather than residing in Sherwood Forest with like minded country folk. His name is Leung Kowk-Hung, though he is better known as Long Hair, social activist turned legislative council member. His story is being told in this year’s Calgary International Film Festival in Long Hair Revolution, a film by U of C alumni Kempton Lam.

“[Being part of Legco] is different than the last 25 years of his life,” remarks Lam. “He was a street fighter, a rebel, fighting for the lower classes. Long Hair has become a law maker with a twist. He’s not your usual businessman in Armani suits–he comes in wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt under a jacket.”

Lam took his camera to Hong Kong to follow Long Hair for a month shortly after Long Hair took his seat on the council. If indeed it’s fair to compare Long Hair to Robin Hood, then certainly Lam would be the minstrel who first sang of his exploits. Lam, formerly of Hong Kong and Toronto, has settled in Calgary, except when certain desires pull him away. After Long Hair’s sweeping victory in September 2004, Lam decided he needed to make his way to Hong Kong to talk to the widely misunderstood and greatly loved public figure.

“I talked to him a few times and got permission,” Lam recounts. “He just said ‘come on over and follow me around for a bit.’ I wanted to see him with my own eyes. He’s a little bit, if not very much, misunderstood especially within the media and I wanted to get a stronger sense of what he’s really like.”

The subsequent weeks and couple hours of edited film constituting Long Hair Revolution, follow Long Hair as he takes on his new existence. There are conflicts with others from the council, real interaction with the electorate and the hiring of an assistant to take care of some of the aspects of public office Long Hair isn’t used to.

“When I was trying to get permission to come do the documentary he’d tell me over the phone that it was no problem; I’d ask him for something written saying it was okay,” explains Lam. “But had I waited for that I never would have gone. He’s not very good at doing paperwork.”

This being said, Long Hair has done a lot, the least of which is trying to get past some of the bureaucracy of his position.

“There’s plenty of material for people who just want to see the bad,” admits Lam. “But he’s like everyone else, he’s not perfect.”

According to Lam, Long Hair’s most important contribution isn’t his attention to the 60,000 plus voters who supported him. Nor is it the ruckus the Trotskyite has caused in and out of the Legislature. Since his appointment, Long Hair has been important on a simpler level.

“The way I see him, I’m impressed less by his politics and more by his potential impact,” asserts Lam. “China’s going to have a big impact and Hong Kong is a big window into it.”

Meanwhile, Lam is constantly on the alert, running off to meet with sound techs and always pinching himself to make sure it’s all real. After all, not every documentary maker has his debut picked up by an international calibre film festival.

“The end of the month will be the world premiere,” says Lam. “The grant from the National Film Board convinced me I’m not a total crackpot for doing this. And with the festival picking it up it’s encouraging. But until the day I actually watch it on screen it won’t really sink in.”

Of course, like all wandering minstrels of the 13th century, Lam also has an MBA and does look forward to putting it to use at some point. However, he’s been bitten by the documentary bug so it probably won’t be long until he’s singing songs of another of our generation’s heroes.

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