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The Golden Rock - Squattertown Blu-ray Edition




Thanks to Marco Sparmberg, I recently got my hands on the Blu-ray of SQUATTERTOWN, his independent web series.

What is SQUATTERTOWN, you ask. I’ll just let Marco do the talking:

Squattertown is a trans media production centering around a mini web series. Sole crowdfunded via 35 backers from 7 countries around the world Squattertown is an interactive web based project on a global scale. Created as first Dim Sum Western, this web series tells the grim story of “a dystopian parallel universe in which Hong Kong’s wealth gap has grown to the point where a vast underclass is forced to live in a parallel city that exists above the heads of the affluent.”

Why is SQUATTERTOWN important? 1) It’s one of the most ambitious ideas I’ve heard of for a Hong Kong indie. It actually tries to do something different with the Hong Kong cityscape on a indie budget (and it manages to pull it off) 2) It’s a successful example of crowdfunding, which involves relying on contributors from around the world to make up a budget for a film. It tests a filmmakers’ ability to pitch the project to the world, not just a boardroom of rich men.

The series is web-based (link at the end of the entry), and it can be viewed for free. But since I’m one of those contributors (LoveHKFilm is also credited in the Special Thanks section), Mr. Sparmberg was kind enough to give me the Blu-ray version of his film.




The disc includes not only the entire first season of the series, it also includes a surprising amount of featurettes, covering various stages of its production (including the world premiere!). Obviously, the blu-ray disc won’t be of demo quality, and it’s not readily available, so I won’t be going into the audio and video quality of the disc.



It doesn’t matter whether you understand the story of SQUATTERTOWN or not (and you’re more likely to not anyway). It’s all about experimenting with genres, specifically a mix of Hong Kong cinema and Spaghetti Westerns. Using a gritty Hong Kong cinema aesthetic (mainly a gray palette and lots of handheld camerawork), Sparmberg slowly brings two stories together into one (their connection isn’t even revealed until the third episode), but he doesn’t offer much clues nor clear answers about his characters or their motivations. You won’t understand SQUATTERTOWN, but it might not even really matter by the end.

Hong Kong independent cinema isn’t known for its ambitions, which is why it’s impressive to see visuals like these in the series:




Yes, it looks better when the shot is moving


 Mostly shot on location on Hong Kong’s rooftops, SQUATTERTOWN really does feel like it lives in its own world. Considering that many of these locations are being torn down by redevelopers, the series also serves as a record that these old buildings really did once exist, and you don’t have to wait for the future to find people living in these rooftop housing.






In addition to the four-episode series, the SQUATTERTOWN blu-ray also includes a whole lot of special features. Marco captured practically every stage of production, including the teaser he made to gather funding (trust me, it looks VERY different from the final product) and footage from each of the real rooftop he shot at. It’s pretty much a step-to-step guide that shows how he managed to put this thing together with himself and the hard work of a few others.

Where can you get the blu-ray, you ask? Well, you can’t, unless you contact Marco directly. However, you can check out the entire series (HD available) and these making ofs on the series’ Youtube channel or links to the series on other video sites on the official website.


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