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Freedom Swimmer documents a mass migration story from the 20th century, which is relatively untold in the Western world – and offers context for a city in turmoil, today.
A granddaughter asks her grandfather to recount his journey from China, swimming to Hong Kong in the 1970's.
One of two million mainland residents who swam across the southern sea border near Shenzhen, it was a decade-long struggle to leave. Many others died trying or were captured and sent to labour camps. He was one of the lucky ones.
From the 1950's to 1980's Hong Kong was a symbol of freedom to many Chinese, glimpsed across the water. The grandfather, like many other refugees, went on to have a successful life in Hong Kong and was part of the working-class movement that powered local industry and helped transform the city into a financial success story.
Freedom Swimmer explores the effect of past cultural trauma, allowing the audience to find a new perspective on the current situation. It reflects the depth of a symbol that is 'freedom' – that Hong Kong both represents and holds onto so tightly.
On a wider-scale, this is a universal story of the dispossessed – what it takes to flee your country, what it means to fight for freedom, what it is like to leave everything in hope of liberty.
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