To me growing up, the most powerful scene from the movie, Romeo Must Die, was when a young boy (who would later grow up into the character played by Jet Li) and his brother were swimming in a dark sea, seemingly about to drown, when a basketball floated towards them and they were able to stay afloat and survive the swim to the “lights of Hong Kong.”
In the span of that flashback, we witness a constitutive moment from Han’s childhood: he and his younger brother, Po, adrift at night in an ocean that threatens to drown [End Page 151] them; their only flotation device, a buoyant and increasingly baffling basketball. “Which way are we going?” Po asks in Cantonese as he clambers onto his brother’s back. “Toward the lights of Hong Kong,” replies Han. Totally repressing the obvious question of exactly how two children could have ended up in this highly unusual predicament—afloat in the middle of the ocean, using a basketball as a life preserver (a pickup game gone horribly wrong? a round of horse taken way too far?)—the movie abruptly returns to the present, with Han still transfixed by this strangely resonant remnant of his childhood.
For most of my American life, I also thought that this was an “unusual predicament” and a google search about this scene and the historical context hardly produced any results (one result above). I couple years ago, news about Hong Kong became more prominent and this coincided with me being able to ask some people from China about their past, including how life was like during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. This then led me to reading about the Freedom Swimmers, who were people from mainland China who during the Cultural Revolution and other periods, found it worthwhile to swim for miles at night across a harbor/channel from China to British controlled Hong Kong. Countless died, many survived (in an evolutionary way, the able bodied) and either stayed in Hong Kong making it a global economic juggernaut (google: Freedom Swimmer Hong Kong Billionaires) or emigrated to counties such as the United States and Australia. The movie scene of the two young boys brought an imagery of this period, the desperation and hope. I hope to meet people who lived this moment and preserve their stories. I think it would be really cool to do a memory video interview of them.
Note from the MemoryVideo.com Team: We wanted to bring awareness to interesting history and periods of time. Some people will want to learn more, either because of a love from history or it is a part of their family heritage.
Also, Rest in Peace to the actor and rapper DMX who died on April 9, 2021. He was one of the main actors in Romeo Must Die.