Watching Sue Williams’ documentary Denise Ho: Becoming the Song put the upcoming Fourth of July celebration into proper perspective. It documents a very modern fight for freedom and independence, and the stakes are higher than ever and, sadly, unresolved.
Through talking-head interviews, reality-style journalism, and archival and concert footage, Williams tells the story of Denise Ho’s struggle from the very beginning. She was born in Canada to Chinese immigrants. There she and her family got their first taste of freedom—one that would never go away. At a young age, Ho knew that she wanted to be a singer and, in her teens, did just that by winning a televised singing contest in Hong Kong.
“…coming out publicly with her new image and brand also meant coming out as a lesbian.”
One of her prizes was meeting the legendary Cantopop celebrity, Anita Mui. This encounter would help launch Ho’s career as she would tour with Mui and provide background vocals on the successful singer’s albums. This relationship would end tragically upon Mui’s passing from cervical cancer. Ho would be forced to shed her idolization of Mui and be reborn with her own unique style, becoming one of China’s great contemporary pop singers. Ironically, coming out publicly with her new image and brand also meant coming out as a lesbian. In an even greater irony, coming out and working toward gay rights would be the easiest thing she’d ever do.
Juxtaposed against Ho’s story is the history of Hong Kong. For several generations, Hong Kong was a British territory, a hub of Western capitalism and freedom just on the outskirts of communist China. In 1997, after 156 years of British rule, the sovereignty of Hong Kong was peacefully transferred back to China under the condition that Hong Kong would be allowed to govern itself through democracy and open elections for the next 50 years. China agreed under the policy known as “Two Systems, One China.”
"…the portrait of a modern hero."