Golden Scene has picked up international rights to “10 Years,” a dark political fantasy about the future of Hong Kong, the iconic territory which passed from British to Chinese rule.
The picture was made as an ultra-low-budget independent, with five directors each contributing a short section imagining different aspects of how life in Hong Kong may have changed ten years from now.
It got a theatrical release in the week before Christmas, having had a quiet premiere in November at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival.
It has remained on screens and expanded the width of its release to become a surprise hit. As of Jan. 31 it had accumulated $692,000 (HK$5.4 million).
What appears to have driven interest in the movie is a combination of the political climate in ‘Greater China’ and how several of the film’s fictional imaginings appear to be coming true.
Among the scenarios imagined in “10 Years” are bans on the use of the Cantonese language and on the word “local.”
Hong Kong has little track record of making political movies, but events in the last few years have created a highly charged atmosphere. These pitch a government of Beijing loyalists, business types and economic pragmatists against others who value Cantonese culture and traditions, freedom of speech and aspire to representative democracy.
The former colony witnessed an extraordinary act of public defiance, known as ‘Occupy Central’, in late 2014 when thousands of people took up residence in the streets, as a protest against what they saw as government retreat on plans to allow democratic elections. The failure of that mass movement has given rise to bitterness and frustration, and a sharper division between the pro-Beijing camp and newly named as ‘localists.’
And in a scene that could have come straight out of the movie, shots were fired as a riot broke out last week in the Mongkok district. The protest erupted after Hong Kong police tried to clear unlicensed street traders selling traditional food on the first day of the Chinese New Year holidays. Local residents took it as another assault on local values and further erosion of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ arrangement under which Hong Kong is supposed to be governed with a ‘high degree of autonomy’ for the 50 years that followed the 1997 handover.
“We wrote the screenplays for our sections prior to Occupy Central,” prodicer-director Ng Ka-leung told Variety. “But we found that each of us had rewritten our segments afterwards because some of what we had foreseen happening ten years out was happening in the present.”
Ironically, efforts to suppress the film may have contributed to its box office success. The Global Times, a mainland Chinese tabloid newspaper, fueled the fire by calling it “absurd and ridiculous,” and labelled its message as a “virus of the mind.”