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Ten Years

Liu Kai-Chi in the "Local Egg" segment of Ten Years.
Chinese: 十年  
Year: 2015  
Director: Kwok Zune, Wong Fei-Pang, Jevons Au Man-Kit, Chow Kun-Wai, Ng Ka-Leung
  Writer: Leung Pui-Pui, Fean Chung, Wong Ching, Wong Fei-Pang, Jevons Au Man-Kit, Chow Kwun-Wai, Ng Ka-Leung

Courtney Wu Zerisawa, Peter Chan, Hui Pui-Do, Wang Hong-Wei, Chan Wai-Sin, Wong Ching, Lau Ho-Chi, Lau Si-Ho, KK Si, Ng Siu-Hin, Tanzela Qoser, Wong Man-Chak, Ben Yuen Foo-Wah, Liu Kai-Chi, Hui Yuk-Ming, Wong Hing-Nam, Lai Chung-Hin

The Skinny: Omnibus of five shorts that imagines Hong Kong – and its political and social issues – in the year 2025. The whole feature starts off on the wrong foot and is unevenly executed, but the manner in which it looks at the state of Hong Kong and its people makes it an essential work for local culturati, and indeed anyone interested in these subjects. General audiences may be less excited but that’s to be expected.
by Kozo:
Though unevenly executed, indie omnibus Ten Years is a worthwhile attempt at socially-relevant Hong Kong film. Ten Years presents five shorts that imagine Hong Kong in the year 2025, with storylines and themes that extrapolate on local social and political issues. The film doesn’t start smoothly, as the first two shorts are comparatively the weakest. The lead-off short, director Kwok Zune’s “Extras”, tells of two low-level gangsters (Courtney Wu Zerisawa and Peter Chan) who are instructed by their boss to assassinate a small-time politician. Or maybe they’re supposed to shoot someone else entirely, as their assignment is being debated and changed on the fly by a consortium of shadowy political types who callously toy with the men’s lives. This short touches on identity, power, class and politics but the pace is plodding and the satire obvious. As is, “Extras” feels like it could accomplish the same in half the amount of time.

Director Wong Fei-Pang’s “Season of the End” is also a tough sit, but for different reasons. This short tells of two rebels, one man and one woman, who collect remnants of destroyed homes and lives for study as “specimens”. When the male (Lau Ho-Chi) decides to become a specimen, he asks the female (Wong Ching) to arrange for his preservation. With its abstract style and eerie detail, “Season of the End” resembles low-rent Kim Ki-Duk, and may alienate upon first glance. However, with some patience, “Season” can reward with it unsettling and even mesmerizing exploration of a dehumanized, broken-down future. One sticking point: the actual content doesn’t feel that Hong Kong-specific and could take place in any number of locations.

On the other hand, “Dialect” is pure Hong Kong in its examination of the way local life is transforming. Written and directed by Milkyway Image screenwriter Jevons Au, “Dialect” takes place in a future where Putonghua has become the official language of Hong Kong, and taxi drivers who only speak Cantonese receive fewer benefits than Putonghua speakers. Amidst these conditions, a Cantonese-only taxi driver (Lau Si-Ho) finds prejudice through a variety of encounters. Less a story than a collection of vignettes, “Dialect” nonetheless demonstrates how a person can be subtly marginalized through language, and sometimes by the most unexpected of people. Given Hong Kong’s current identity crisis, and the raging divide between mainland Chinese and Hong Kongers, “Dialect” is quietly and sharply resonant.

Director Chow Kwun-Wai’s “Self-Immolator” is far more direct. Told as a fictional documentary, the short examines a self-immolation incident outside the British consulate – an act of protest after an activist (Ng Siu-Hin of She Remembers, He Forgets) dies in prison after being convicted of sedition. His treasonous act: Calling for the United Kingdom to re-involve itself in Hong Kong-China affairs. With references to the Umbrella Revolution and Article 23, “Self-Immolator” is overtly pandering in its echoing of the Hong Kong activist spirit. The acting also gets histrionic and its dogma can be a little over-the-top. Still, the premise is a strong one, and the ending is emotional and even inspiring. For some viewers, “Self-Immolator” could arguably be the most representative segment of Ten Years.

The film wraps up with director Ng Ka-Leung's "Local Egg", about a grocery store owner named Sam (Liu Kai-Chi) who seeks a new egg distributor after Hong Kong’s last chicken farm closes. He sells his remaining stock as “local eggs”, but the word “local” disturbs the Youth Guard, a mainland-influenced youth cadre, of which one member is Sam’s grade-school son Ming (Hui Yuk-Ming). Like “Dialect”, “Local Egg” demonstrates how the China-Hong Kong divide can insinuate itself into daily life in unexpected but insidiously possible ways. At the same time, the short shows how local activism and the spirit of independence might still exist during darker times. Besides relevant themes and a political conscience, “Local Egg” offers quietly rousing hope.

Ten Years will be difficult going for fans of movies in general, as its segments rarely excel in ways unrelated to their social or political views. “Season of the End” is the exception; the segment’s lack of Hong Kong specificity gives it more general appeal, and the dark storyline may interest fans of existential horror. Hong Kong’s resident culturati are the most obvious audience for the whole of Ten Years, as the indie filmmaking style and focus on Hong Kong serves them well. However, anyone anywhere with a keen interest in Hong Kong’s growing social and political concerns should consider seeing the film. Success of the individual filmmakers aside, the provocative themes are ripe for discussion and debate, and enough to make Ten Years an essential work. (Kozo, 12/2015)

  Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen