Faceless Image


By Bradley Gibson | September 26, 2021

The daughter is forced from her home and must live with friends. She returns in due course to live at offset hours from her father, arriving home late and leaving early to avoid him. The non-violent believer is shaken to his core by the brutality he sees. He tells us that what he’s experiencing can’t be called PTSD because the trauma continues every day. The student is fearful for his friends on campus.

The dimmest prospects are for the gay rights artist-activist. Of all the social ills of the authoritarian regime, the worst legal and social challenges are faced by the LGBTQ community. Of note is the fact that ancient Chinese culture was accepting of alternative lifestyles and same-sex relationships. It was only when Western influences began to seep in during the 19th and 20th centuries that such an intolerance began to grow. The Chinese government is wary of political influence that could arise from communities organizing, so they use the social stigma of LGBTQ as an excuse to keep the Queer community from coming together to have any presence.

“…an essential document and a powerful accomplishment…”

The government eventually did scrap the extradition bill, but there were even more intense protests afterward as an anti-mask law was implemented. The authority also resisted calls to investigate police brutality and release all who’d been arrested.

Faceless is an essential document and a powerful accomplishment for a first-time director, but the denouement is soul-killing. We learn details about the lives of the four activists and become deeply sympathetic as they act on convictions they’ve been taught all their lives. They hold dear concepts of autonomy and camaraderie, and they’ve been made to expect that good will win out in the end if they follow that path. Perhaps they’ve seen too many Hollywood films where the righteous triumph. American ideals are (or were) the same, and we understand their passion for those freedoms. To demand self-determination and fair treatment from your government is a natural and seemingly obvious expectation.

However, this is China. Democracy is on the ropes worldwide in these perilous times, but no apparatus on the planet is better at crushing an uprising than the Chinese government. Sadly, now the protest leaders have been imprisoned or disappeared, and there are no umbrellas on the streets of Hong Kong unless it’s raining.

Faceless screened at the 2021 Hot Docs Film Festival and the 2021 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

Faceless (2021)

Directed and Written: Jennifer Ngo

Starring: The Daughter, The Believer, The Student, The Queer Activist, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

Faceless Image

"…no apparatus on the planet is better at crushing an uprising than the Chinese government."

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