Ten Years

The dystopian vision of Hong Kong that took the award for best picture at this year's Hong Kong Film Awards

BY Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva in Culture Digest | 31 MAY 16

The low-budget independent dystopian film Ten Years took the best picture accolade at the 35th Hong Kong Film Awards in April. Directed by Ng Ka-leung, Jevons Au, Chow Kwun-Wai, Fei-Pang Wong and Kwok Zune, it was the movie’s only nomination. By executive producer Andrew Choi’s own admission (as reported by the South China Morning Post), the film wasn’t the biggest or the best artistic production in 2015, but its ban in China and its engagement with the taboo subject of Hong Kong’s fraught relationship to the mainland must have tipped the scales in its favour.

Set in 2025 and comprising five shorts, Ten Years reflects some of Hongkongers’ darkest fears at the prospect of coming back under Beijing’s full control in 2047, when the law put in place to ensure the autonomy of the region for 50 years following the 1997 handover expires. Filmed in a muted greyish palette, Season of the End by Wong Fei-Pang follows a couple of researchers who collect the rubble of Hong Kong’s cultural annihilation. Kwok Zune’s Extras is a film noir conspiracy involving Beijing gangsters, politicians and triads, shot in black and white. Dialect by Jevon Au follows the tribulations of a taxi driver who is handicapped by speaking only his native Cantonese and begins to loose his grasp on his job and his city. Chow Kwun-Wai’s Self-Immolator investigates an incident in front of the British Consulate following a hunger strike. The film ends with a shot of an umbrella in flames (in reference to the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement). And Local Egg by Ng Ka-leung features children as watchdogs implementing an Orwellian rule that forbids the use of words such as ‘local’.

In spite of its commercial success, the film was shown only briefly in local cinemas, its run allegedly cut short due to political sensitivities. On Friday 1 April, public screenings were organized across the city in more than 30 locations, from university auditoriums to street corners. Although pessimistic in content and often blunt in delivery, this grabbing movie ultimately proposes a space to discuss, without self-censorship, socio-political issues that touch ordinary people. It is available on iTunes (in Hong Kong, not China).

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva is an art writer based in Hong Kong. She is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Pipeline magazine.