Revisited at the end of 2020: Our Responsibility to Hong Kong
The film Ten Years attracted numerous controversies when first released, including the official block of Hong Kong Film Awards from Chinese Central Television for its nomination of Best Film. The movie is seen as a major attack against the reign of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Hong Kong and thus, as can be imagined, it is banned in Mainland China.
However, is it so radical as to be ‘disappeared’ completely in a country? The movie is comprised of five short stories set in 2025: Extras, Season of the End, Self-Immolator, Dialect, Local Eggs. Each tells a story from the point of view of speculating the face of Hong Kong ten years from the time of release. The film reflects collective anxiety and resentment of the repressive regime, and though each story is seemingly irrelevant to one another, they all mirror the predicaments of Hong Kong as the former colony of the British Empire and current ‘Special Administrative Region’ of PRC.
The film reflects collective anxiety and resentment of the repressive regime
We see the post-Umbrella Movement (2014) political climate of Hong Kong, which is very much consumed by conspiracy theories after years of divisiveness and infiltration from PRC in Extras and Self-Immolator. These two stories, heartbreakingly from the point of view of the present day, share astonishingly numerous parallels with the incidents in the anti-Extradition Law movement in 2019, and legalisation of the National Security Law earlier this year. It is excruciating to say that the fictional speculations from five years ago are chillingly travelling to the reality and realised sooner than we’d like to imagine. Special praises should also be given to the filmmakers for their daring attempts to confront Hong Kong’s long-existing issue of excluding South Asian descendants by including and representing members of the community in the story. Much like in the film, the minority community is not regarded as ‘authentic’ Hong-Konger in the real world yet had considerable presence in the 2019 movement as part of the manifestation of their identity.
It is excruciating to say that the fictional speculations from five years ago are chillingly travelling to the reality and realised sooner than we’d like to imagine
Season of the End is a grotesque story surrounding a couple who devote their life to preserving the remains of social movements and nostalgic Hong Kong, and are slowly being eroded by the uncontrollable current of time from the inside. Compared to the aforementioned chapters, Dialect and Local Eggs, set in much more realistic and everyday scenarios. Stranded between the transitions of rules from different governors, Hong Kong people are deprived of the right to pass on their heritage, language and culture to their children in Dialect. The local language Cantonese is not favoured in the eyes of either the British colonial government or the Mandarin-speaking Chinese central government. Reminiscences of Cultural Revolution can be found in Local Eggs, where primary school age pupils wearing a red neckerchief (symbol of Chinese Communist Party) are encouraged to denounce and police their parents as part of school activities. The gruesomeness of repeated history is beyond the power of words.
It is of significant importance for us to examine the shifting political climates and connect the past and present turmoil in Hong Kong from afar
In general, this is a brave and even unprecedented experimentation of politicising cinematic arts in Hong Kong, yet it is not recommended for a first-time viewer of films under the genre or in region. As the filmmakers acknowledged, Ten Years has various flaws in the fulfilment of aestheticism for technical immaturity. On the other hand, it is of significant importance for us to examine the shifting political climates and connect the past and present turmoil in Hong Kong from afar. The recognition from the Hong Kong Film Awards awarding it as ‘Best Film’ shows that these filmmakers’ disguised prophets are not as doomed as Cassandra back then in the city, but not so much so elsewhere. The movie was their cry for help, and the world failed to respond to them. As people who enjoy privileges of liberty, witnessing the city who prides its own freedom and posterity being gradually dispossessed without active support is a disgrace on the name of democracy we celebrate.
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