Amazon’s “Expats” series spurs controversy amidst Hong Kong’s filmmaking community


29th January 2024 – (Hong Kong) A new television drama starring Nicole Kidman has stirred fierce debate in Hong Kong over issues of artistic license, free expression and favourable treatment amidst the city’s stringent pandemic restrictions. The series ‘Expats’, produced by Amazon and adapted from a 2016 novel, delves into the lives of expatriate families in contemporary Hong Kong. But its sensitive themes and initial unavailability to local viewers have drawn intense scrutiny.

The show’s production itself courted controversy when Kidman was exempted from quarantine protocols in 2021 to film in Hong Kong. Officials justified the decision based on projected economic benefits, prompting accusations of double standards.

Content-wise, ‘Expats’ touches on polarising topics like the 2014 Umbrella Movement pro-democracy protests. Scenes mirroring the unrest’s calls for universal suffrage provide clues to why streaming access was limited initially. The narrative follows expatriate Margaret, played by Kidman, whose child vanishes under her nanny’s supervision. Some argue the show depicts an embellished view of expat life. But supporters praise its artistry and intrigue.

Legislators have voiced concerns over quarantine exemptions for productions like ‘Expats’ and how the government monitors content. Officials defend limiting local availability as the platform’s decision.

Debate now centres on artistic freedom in Hong Kong’s creative sphere and the government’s role in regulating expression. The series airs globally but remains unseen by the city it portrays. While the government champions the economic upside, fears linger that politics may limit artistic exploration. But authorities maintain distance from content decisions.