“Ten Years” is a sear­ingly bleak look at the city’s fu­ture

HK Magazine - - PAGE 3 -

(Hong Kong) Drama. Di­rected by Ng Ka-le­ung, Jevons Au Man-kit, Chow Kwun-wai, Wong Fei-pang and Zune Kwok. Star­ring Liu Kai-chi, Court­ney Wu, Peter Chan, Wong Jing, Lau Ho-chi. Cat­e­gory IIB, 104 min­utes. Lim­ited re­lease.

If you’re still stray­ing into the fan­ta­sy­land where Hong Kong will re­main un­changed un­til 2047, “Ten Years” will stamp out your wish­ful think­ing. A col­lec­tion of five un­con­nected short films by emerg­ing Hong Kong di­rec­tors, the film paints a bleak pic­ture of our city’s fu­ture in the next decade. The film has had its fill of cov­er­age thanks to the at­tacks from Chi­nese state me­dia, but all that noise doesn’t shout down this film, or how pow­er­fully it tells its sto­ries.

The film kicks off with the black-and-white “Ex­tras,” in­tro­duc­ing us to an In­dian im­mi­grant and a hap­less triad mem­ber who are roped in by the gov­ern­ment to fake an as­sas­si­na­tion of two po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, in or­der to drum up sup­port for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a na­tional se­cu­rity law.

It all seems like a joke at first, but things soon get sin­is­ter.

In “Di­alect,” taxi driv­ers are re­quired in the fu­ture to pass a Pu­tonghua pro­fi­ciency test in or­der to pick up pas­sen­gers at ma­jor im­mi­gra­tion con­trol points. A Can­tonese-speak­ing driver strug­gles through the hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment while wrestling with his wife, who in­sists on en­rolling their son in a Pu­tonghua-only school.

Ac­cord­ing to direc­tor Jevons Au Man-kit, Hong Kong’s ver­sa­tile lin­guis­tic en­vi­ron­ment was the spur to pro­duc­ing “Di­alect.” He points out the pas­sive sta­tus of Can­tonese and how Hongkongers at­tached greater sig­nif­i­cance to English when Hong Kong was a Bri­tish colony, and to Pu­tonghua when the In­di­vid­ual Visit Scheme was im­ple­mented. “Is this not our turn to de­fend our lan­guage?” he asks HK Magazine. “‘Di­alect’ lays bare what the ‘ef­fect’ will be so that view­ers can con­tem­plate what the ‘cause’ is—is it the sys­tem? Hu­man na­ture? Or is it our de­sires?”

“Self-im­mo­la­tor” is per­haps the short that res­onates the most. Pre­sented as a doc­u­men­tary, com­plete with com­men­tary and flash­backs, some­one sets fire to them­selves in front of the Bri­tish Con­sulate-Gen­eral. With vi­su­als di­rectly re­call­ing the protests at the be­gin­ning of Oc­cupy, the ten­sion slowly builds up to a cli­max.

The script took shape in 2009, when direc­tor Chow Kwun-wai de­cided that the fail­ure in fight­ing for uni­ver­sal suf­frage for both the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive and Legco was the last straw. “The film gave me the strength to over­come the pow­er­less­ness I felt dur­ing the Um­brella Revo­lu­tion,” he tells HK Magazine.

There are no big names, but from rookie ac­tors to fa­mil­iar faces from TV, the cast de­liv­ers poignant per­for­mances. Le­ung Kin-ping de­serves a huge hand for his spot-on por­trayal of a pru­dent taxi driver who finds him­self on the brink of a ca­reer and fam­ily break­down in “Di­alect.” The mo­ment when his son calls him “baba” in Pu­tonghua is par­tic­u­larly re­mark­able, as we watch his de­spair gen­tly lan­guish into ac­cep­tance.

From its abun­dant use of lo­ca­tion-based sounds to its mod­est shots, the di­rec­tors are care­ful to steer clear from tricky shots or flash ef­fects: They know that the au­di­ence’s un­ease feeds on the story’s be­liev­abil­ity. An­other rea­son is the shoe­string bud­get: $100,000 was all each direc­tor had to make “Ten Years.”

From its ini­tial sin­gle re­lease, “Ten Years” spread to more and more the­aters in Hong Kong, fi­nally ris­ing to in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion through the fes­ti­val route. “Di­alect” direc­tor Au sug­gests that the suc­cess of the film has been its abil­ity to “strike a chord” with those who love Hong Kong, while “Self-Im­mo­la­tor” direc­tor Chow ex­presses a con­cern that over­seas view­ers may not be able to un­der­stand the jar­gon and the mul­ti­tude of po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ments.

But this is a film for Hongkongers. “Ten Years” may not be your av­er­age feel-good flick, but this bleak pic­ture of the fu­ture touches a sore spot in every Hongkonger’s heart. Sophia Lam

If you missed “Ten Years” in cin­e­mas, there is a si­mul­ta­ne­ous com­mu­nity screen­ing at 12 lo­ca­tions across Hong Kong on April 1 at 7pm, fol­lowed by a live dis­cus­sion with the di­rec­tors. Visit face­book. com/hk­tenyears for de­tails.

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