Dir: Kwok Zune, Wong Fei-pang, Jevons Au, Chow Kwun-wai, Ng Ka-leung | Gateway | Dragons & Tigers | Hong Kong | 2015 | 103 mins
October 10 4:15 pm | International Village 10
October 12 9:15 pm | Vancouver Playhouse
One of the highlights of watching a dystopian film is often the feeling of escapism. The feeling of “thank goodness we don’t live in that world.” But that feeling doesn’t ring true as you watch Ten Years.
The beauty and impact of Ten Years lies in its frightening proximity to present reality in Hong Kong. The five vignettes present five different stories depicting anxiety over the loss of Hong Kong’s culture, language and way of life.
How subversive is the film? So subversive, that despite doing incredibly well in the box office (even beating Star Wars: The Force Awakens), it was pulled from the cinema within eight weeks. So controversial, that the Chinese government refused to air the Hong Kong film awards in which the film won in the Best Film category.
In “Extra,” two low level triad members are hired to stage a shooting of two politicians to help the government bring in an authoritarian “National Security Law”. The vignette, shot in black and white, is a reference to the allegations that gangsters infiltrated the 2014 Umbrella Movement to incite violence and to undermine the pro-democracy movement.
“Season of the End” shows a couple searching among ruins to preserve whatever they can of local culture. Their efforts to preserve anything and everything eventually go too far.
“Self-Immolator” is a mockumentary that depicts protesters so desperate in their quest for Hong Kong’s right for self-sovereignty, that they are willing to die for the cause. One dies from a hunger strike and another lights herself on fire in front of the United Kingdom’s embassy. One wonders if the deaths are admirable or in vain.
In “Dialect,” a cab driver struggles to earn a living as the government continues to limit and reduce the traffic areas that non-Mandarin speaking cab drivers can serve. His wife admonishes him for continuing to speak to his child in Cantonese. This story most closely reflects the reality in Hong Kong, as there is increasing emphasis on Mandarin at the expense of Cantonese among local schools.
Finally, “Local Egg” shows children trained to be young guards in uniform to rat on local businesses that dare to carry products that hint at dissident thinking. Even the sign “local eggs” is considered to be taboo. The vignette is heavily reminiscent of the real history of youth “red guards” used in the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s to attack old customs, culture, habits and ideas.
Producer Andrew Choi was in attendance at the film’s Canadian premiere on Saturday, October 8. He said the five directors wanted to be honest to themselves, to show the very possible future of Hong Kong.
Although the vignettes depict a bleak picture, Choi said that all of the directors believe it is not too late. Thus, Ten Years is a call to action, not only to Hong Kongers but to anyone who cares about upholding the cornerstones of democracy such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press, as well as preserving a language and culture that is under threat.