Hot Docs 2023: Qs à la mode with… Joe Piscatella (Who’s Afraid of Nathan Law?)

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In Who’s Afraid of Nathan Law?, director Joe Piscatella profiles the titular Hong Kong student-turned-activist-turned-politician-turned-dissident-turned-Nobel-nominee. We posed our Qs à la mode to Joe, and here’s what he shared!

If I had to describe my film using only three adjectives, they would be: Inspiring. Courageous. Alarming.

I decided to make this film because: Stories like these need to be told, especially when some of the subjects are no longer allowed speak.

The thing that surprised me most about my film’s subject/topic was: Courage. We were in the middle of filming when our subject, Nathan Law, fled Hong Kong and went into exile. To witness the courage and conviction it takes leave your homeland without saying goodbye to family friends to protect them is as inspiring as it is heartbreaking.

My favorite moment/scene/sequence in my film is: The moment Nathan becomes the youngest lawmaker ever elected in Hong Kong’s history. This moment is the pinnacle of his journey from being a shy activist to revolution leader — trying to pressure the government for the democracy Hong Kong had been promised — to elected lawmaker seeking to change the system from the inside.

The most challenging part of making my film was: Having to adapt filmmaking once Hong Kong’s National Security Law was enacted. Before the National Security Law, we were able to film our subjects openly with little harassment or interference. Once the National Security Law was enacted, we had to adapt to filming in a police state. Over night, sources and characters suddenly needed their identities protected. Production crews preferred to remain anonymous, sometimes with producers not even knowing their first names. Interview locations had to remain secret until hours before the shoot. Even procuring footage of public events became a challenge, as many camera operators feared violating the National Security Law.

My most invaluable piece of doc-making gear was/is: A great filmmaking team. It became an honor to work with our Hong Kong crew to tell a story they were no longer able to tell themselves.

One piece of documentary-filmmaking advice I’d like to share with aspiring documentarians is: There are elements of doc filmmaking that are out of the filmmaker’s control. Let the story happen and see where it takes you.   

Want to check out Joe’s film, or just learn more about it?
Get the scoop, and your tickets, here!


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