Ten Years, a socio-political selection of five short films that detail the anxiety surrounding Mainland China and it’s administrative rule, has become a surprising hit in Hong Kong over the past couple of months. Each film suggests an event that could happen in ten years, such as self-immolation or the rise of multiple assassinations for money.
Chow Kwun-wai, the director of Self-Immolator, suggested at the HKIFF panel that the events shown on film are becoming all too real and recent protests over government crimes has led to injury and injustice. He continued to speak out about the reality of these situations, sparking the need for audiences to open their eyes and see the dark truth.
Many of the films deal with the struggle between China and Britain, with both partaking in a ‘tug of war’ over Hong Kong. Whether it is protests over housing and education or struggles with language (such as Cantonese and Putonghua), each film presented something new and interesting.
One short film, Dialect written by Jevons Au Man-kit, is loosely based on a true story. Jevons talked about how his work on previous productions in the language of Cantonese became irrelevant when workers spoke in Putonghua, he likened this to the taxi driver in the story who cannot speak it and therefore loses his job and even his grip on his own son. In fact, after an audience member asked a question in Putonghua, a Cantonese man sat next to me, gave me a curious look and threw his arms in the air suggesting that the film may not be far off.
A particularly striking short involved a storeowner whose signs are being monitored by The Youth Guard, for which his son is a member. After being told that he couldn’t write ‘local’ on his eggs anymore he questions the absurdity of the higher powers rules. His son becomes enthralled in the Guard’s web of lies and this angers and confuses his father. As the short comes to a close, the boy realises that he does not want to partake in the Guard’s rulings anymore and he and his dad retreat to a small shop full of banned books to suggest that it’s never too late to do the right thing and stick to your guns.
These selections of films have been criticized by Mainland China for ‘brainwashing’ audiences and selling a twisted sense of propaganda. After listening to the five men responsible for the film talk about their fears for the new generation of Hong Kong, and their desire to prevent these events from happening, you can’t help but feel sympathetic towards their cause. Although, after speaking to a young woman from a film archive who remarked that the film was not as hardcore as she first thought, Ten Years still manages to strike a chord in the hearts of those moral enough to question political injustice. Overall, a fantastic and thought provoking film with a great cast of writers and a poignant score. It’s not hard to see why this independent hit surpassed Star Wars at the HK box office.