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Green Ambassador Voices [GA Voices] 

Feature articles by HKU students on nature, sustainability and community well-being. If you are interested in submitting an article, please complete the application form.


Gary Wong, Published Mar 20, 2019 

SDG 4: Quality Education 

#Journalism #EnvironmentalDocumentaries


Catherine Chan_Journalism

Catherine outside her office in Eliot Hall

We interviewed Catherine Chan, Project Manager at Hong Kong Documentary Initiative, HKU Journalism and Media Studies Centre. Catherine is also the Residential Tutor of New College, the only Sustainability-themed residential college in Hong Kong. 


As someone working in Journalism, what kind of environmental documentaries would interest you the most?

I just came back from Berlin international film festival, and I watched a film called ‘Erde,’ which means earth in German, directed by an Austrian director. The movie covers various land-moving issues in various parts of the world such as California, Cologne in Germany, and other coal mining sites. It shows different people’s reactions toward land destruction. I was fascinated by the movie since there were a lot of techniques used to make the film: drones, face-to-face interview, and more. In particular, the film did not use any narrator; there were only images and direction interviews to show how important the case is. I think watching an environmental documentary is very important because we often have limited opportunities to recognize what is really happening around us. Especially, as a student studying in Hong Kong, since we have a busy daily schedule, we often miss the opportunity to learn critical environmental issues. However, if you could put yourself into the film, you would eventually be able to build another new perspective to learn what is going on around us.

We know that you have spoken to many talented documentary filmmakers. What are some of their qualities that students should possess?

There are some filmmakers that I believe have important qualities that students should possess. Firstly, Christian Frei is a Swiss filmmaker; he has been showing his audience retrospection in Hong Kong with five prominent films. I actually recommend New College residents to watch his movie named Genesis 2.0 which he demonstrated recently. The movie is about a group of scientists who work to discover fossils of mammoths to create genome replica for the species. The movie is very related to the environment.


There is another film called the Giant Buddha, which is about a village in Afghanistan whose residents believe in Buddhism. However, ISIS tries to destroy a Buddha statue, which was built thousands of years ago so that they can be on headline news. In general, the movie spins around heritage as well as human greed – how these two contradictive values clash with each other.


Since HKU is highly supportive of sustainability, I think it is essential for the residents to learn a different perspective when we are dealing with day-to-day life. Since it is all about empathy when it comes to the environment and social issues, what I’ve seen with these talented and renowned filmmakers was that they have empathy with people as well as conservation issues – they are investigating subjects that they want to promote to the general public. As such, I want to say that empathy is a quality that not only these filmmakers should strive for, but also us as well.


Do you think we need to view a certain issue from different perspectives such as social, environmental, or economic to get a holistic view?

I think it is very easy to look for different opinions since we have the internet now, and there are a lot of people from different backgrounds in New College as well. However, what I want to emphasize is empathy. Because with this idea, you’ll be able to see yourself in other’s shoes – to think from their perspectives. Then when you have a goal, when you want to solve a problem, it is essential to understand the story of others – how do they interpret the issue. It is not only about building a holistic approach or idea to solve a problem, but it is also about how different people react to a solution so you can do something that you think is right.


 So it’s about social care, right?

"Yes, definitely you could say so. It’s about caring."


How has New College life changed your perception of sustainability?

I think New College is a community with people who are aware of environmental issues and sustainability join together. We see this step-by-step in the New Farm, Blue Sky, and Sustainability Drive, all of which give things second lives so that we can reduce waste. I like being with these like-minded people to solve environmental problems and to create synergy. I think this experience has changed my perception because it is constantly reminding me to do something for the environment.


The interview was done via HONC (Humans of New College), a social change initiative that targets change makers in HKU New College. Kudos to Soho Park, who kindly transcribed the interview.