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Denise Ho: Becoming The Song
Politically active pop star Denise Ho has sacrificed a lot for her ideals. Ho, inspired by stars like Anita Mui in childhood, rose to prominence in Hong Kong with her unique take on Cantopop. After getting her start in singing contests, Ho became a stadium-scale act who could attract thousands to her concerts, and she made waves when she became the first mega-star in China to come out as a lesbian. Due to her involvement in the Hong Kong pro-democracy protest movement (starting with the Umbrella Movement of 2014, in which Hong Kongers demanded free elections), Ho was restricted from performing in China. After seeing her music banned and her endorsements dry up, she was forced to take her life in a new direction. Denise Ho: Becoming The Song, the new documentary on Ho now streaming via AFI Silver, follows the singer’s journey from stadium-packing superstar to DIY singer. It features gut-wrenching footage of Ho on the streets of Hong Kong, braving tear gas, getting arrested, and negotiating with armored police to protect protesters—and in the halls of power, before the United Nations and the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. With interviews, performance footage, and snippets of the singer’s work as a political activist, the documentary tells the story of both Hong Kong and of Ho becoming an icon for a desperate, daily struggle for democracy. The film is available to stream at afisilver.com. $12. —Will Lennon
Participate in an online eco-art workshop
Using vibrant watercolors and geometric forms, Samantha Belilty and Daljeet Kaur create visual arguments for climate change action. While their studios are located thousands of miles apart—Belilty in D.C. and Kaur in New Delhi—the two artists and activists are joining forces to share their techniques in an online workshop open to planet and art lovers of all experience levels. Belilty explores the beauty and vulnerability of today’s threatened ecosystems by mixing paints with reusable materials like wood, glass, and plastic. One such work in her “Pollination Series” features a harmony of honeycomb shapes and bee silhouettes against a haunting background of turquoise and pollen yellow. Monochromatic skeletons of floating flowers articulate the fragility of nature, inspiring concern and action in viewers. Meanwhile, Kaur’s work conceptualizes the same ethos, but takes a different approach. She paints in the Madhubani style that originated in the Mithila region along the southern border of Nepal and the northern Indian state of Bihar. Madhubani uses twigs, fingers, matchsticks, and pens to create detailed, colorful patterns with natural dyes and pigments. The scenes typically illustrate people’s relationship to nature, imagery that Kaur expands upon to spread awareness about today’s pressing social issues like global warming. In her “madhURBANi” series, Kaur’s arresting designs communicate the urgency of climate change action in a universal language: candy-colored strokes and constellating shapes. Join them and learn to make your own art grounded in the rhythms and patterns of the earth. The class begins at 10 a.m. on July 19. Registration is available at ecologicprograms.org. $16. —Emma Francois