French director backs Hong Kong pro-democracy protests

Ladj Ly, the director of France's Oscar hope 'Les Miserables' said he 'can only support' Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters

Ladj Ly, the director of France's Oscar hope "Les Miserables", said Monday he backed Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters, saying it was normal for people to demonstrate if a government "was not doing its job."

"I can only support them," said Ly, on the sidelines of the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.

"If the government is not doing its job then it is more than normal that the population will go out in the streets to demonstrate."

"Les Miserables", Ly's debut feature, takes its title from Victor Hugo's classic novel, but transports the people's uprising from the French Revolution to the suburbs of contemporary Pairs.

It features street battles between protestors and police, and centres around three policemen who become overrun by an angry mob.

The French director –- who adapted the feature from his own short film –- stressed that he was not condoning violence and the message at the end of his film was one of hope, and a need for dialogue to solve disputes.

"I really emphasise that I don't accept or support violence but sometimes it cannot be helped," he said, citing the "yellow vest" protesters agitating for economic justice in France as an example of what happens when a government fails to respond to the demands of the people.

Hong Kong's anti-government protests were set off by a now-scrapped plan to allow extraditions of criminal suspects to the mainland but have snowballed into a wider movement calling for more democratic freedoms and police accountability.

Over four months of demonstrations, the song "Do You Hear the People Sing" –- from the musical version of "Les Miserables" -– has rung out sporadically in the streets of the finance hub, with marchers taking it up as one of their rallying cries.

Ly was inspired to pick up the storyline after witnessing the Paris riots of 2005 up close, and took inspiration from Hugo's tale, setting it in the same Paris suburb.

"Everything in those suburbs has been rotting for 20 or 30 years," he said. "Politics is the main problem so this movie is an alert to make people realise what is happening. It's not just in Paris but it is all over the world."