Ilaria Maria Sala / 11 March 2016 / THEGUARDDIAN.COM
It has been hailed as one of the best films to come out of Hong Kong in decades, playing to packed houses and picking up nominations for two major Asian awards.
But if you want to see the independent production Ten Years the only places are private showings advertised through Facebook.
As Beijing steps up its crackdown on political dissent, the film’s disappearance has left some moviegoers scratching their heads and wondering whether the long hand of the mainland authorities may be responsible.
The timing of attacks from the mainland and the content of Ten Years appears to bear this out.
“It is true that things in Hong Kong are happening faster than in our film.”
The film is a dystopian narrative composed of five short stories in which Hong Kong has been totally taken over by China to the point that neither the language, Cantonese, nor local agricultural products can be freely used.
The film first hit the screens at a local film festival in November before getting a wider release the following month.
But general release ended in January – when it was still playing to full houses.
That move coincided with a forthright attack China’s Global Times – the mainland mouthpiece of the Communist party – labelling the film “absurd”, “too pessimistic” and a “virus of the mind”.
A more overt censorship has since appeared with the decision by China that for the first time since 1991 mainland audiences will not be able to watch a live broadcast of the Hong Kong Film Awards nor of the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards – Asia’s answers to the Oscars. The website portal QQ.com has followed suit, and it will not cover the Awards. Ten Years has been nominated as one of the films of the year in both awards.
Shu Kei, a film critic and professor at Hong Kong’s Academy for Performing Arts says China’s reaction is a mistake.
“I think it is stupid, of course, for China to cancel the broadcasts. But this is always their reaction when they do not want people to know more about something.
“This is a very important film. The first in decades that tackles the reality in Hong Kong,” he says.
Made on a shoestring – it cost just 600,000 HK dollars (£55,000) to make – it has made profits at every screening.
“It has already made more than 6m HK dollars (£550,000),” says Andrew Choi, one of the producers, “and it is still playing to packed audiences every time.”
Broadway Circuit, Hong Kong’s main theatre chain with many outlets in mainland China too, was asked for comment but did not return calls about why it had stopped showing a lucrative film. Read more…