Fai (Francis Ng), a homeless man recently released from prison, finds his old friends on the streets in Sham Shui Po, one of Hong Kong’s poorest districts. One night, the group is rudely awakened by an unannounced street sweep. Seeing their possessions stolen by police officers and trashed, Fai and his friends decide to stand up for the dignity of their homeless community with the help of Ms. Ho (Cecilia Choi), a social worker. Based on a news story from 2012, in which a group of homeless people sued the government for mistreatment, DRIFTING movingly portrays the lives of those abandoned by Hong Kong’s exclusionary housing market.
Director Jun Li balances a sociological analysis of structural violence (the film opens with a quote from Judith Butler’s Dispossession) with streetwise melodrama in the vein of Ann Hui’s social realist films, such as ORDINARY HEROES. What is most notable about DRIFTING is its focus on Hong Kong’s hostile architecture, and the psychological toll it takes on the homeless. The film was shot in late 2019, one of the most violent periods in Hong Kong’s recent history, and though no protest footage is directly shown, a menacing air nonetheless hangs over the city.