Directed by Tiffany Sia • Documentary • 2022 • 10 minutes
What Rules The Invisible is a short film that upends archival travelogue footage shot in Hong Kong. Spanning reappropriated amateur footage across the 20th century, the sojourner’s gaze—distanced, distorted and even voyeuristic—shows tropes and patterns. The same shots repeat across decades, from landscape to cityscape to street scenes. Sometimes the footage reveals more about the traveler himself, such as a sequence where the camera curiously tracks the hips and bare legs of women wearing cheongsam crossing a busy intersection. Sia’s essay film studies these travelogues to find indignant subjects glaring back at the camera, or figures on the edges of the frame who appear pixelated and phantasmic, showing the patina of the footage’s circulation. Meanwhile, intertitles intermittently puncture this footage with an oral history of Hong Kong, as told by Sia’s mother who describes colonial police, excrement and hauntings in Kowloon of the postwar era. The viewer is left to imagine these scenes there are no images for.