Dystopian Hong Kong Flick 'Ten Years' Rises Above Censorship
Ten Years managed to win top honors at the Hong Kong Film Awards on Sunday. But if you’re living in mainland China, you likely have no idea. The Chinese media was forbidden from reporting on Ten Years‘ win, and a live broadcast of the event was cut short, replaced with cooking show reruns. And yet, despite China’s vigilant attempts to shut the film down, Ten Years, a collection of five vignettes set in 2025, has enjoyed tremendous success in its native Hong Kong.
And we do mean tremendous. Despite showing in significantly fewer theaters than 2015’s biggest film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and despite opening on the same weekend as that film, Ten Years managed to outperform the space opera at the box office before it was mysteriously and unceremoniously pulled from theaters in January.
To those keeping abreast of Hong Kong’s tenuous relationship with Beijing, the Chinese government’s aggressive censorship should be no surprise. Hong Kong hasn’t been directly ruled by China for centuries. Since 1997, Hong Kong has enjoyed relative autonomy under the “one country, two systems” plan. However, tensions between the two regions have ratcheted up considerably in the past couple of years, driven by China’s frequent encroachment of that plan and Hong Kong’s expressive protests (the right to assembly is not protected under Chinese law).
As with much dystopian fiction, Ten Years is as much a commentary on the past as it is a red flag for the future. The movie’s story–imagining a future where Cantonese is banned, books are censored, and protesters self-immolate in support of Hong Kong’s independence–are rooted in facts. As a film, Ten Years is unmentionable in mainland China. Hong Kong’s booksellers, viewed as sympathizers, have disappeared into China. And a history of self-immolation as a form of protest runs strong in China, especially in regards to the country’s ironclad grasp on Tibet.
“Our film is not a prediction,” said Ng Ka-leung, one of the directors, “It is about the need to face the future together. When evil seems to prevail we must not lost hope.”
Since its removal, Ten Years is viewable only at private screenings in Hong Kong. But international rights to the film have been picked up by Golden Scene, meaning, hopefully, this grimly realistic depiction of Hong Kong can reach a worldwide audience soon.
Stay tuned to Milk for more on Hong Kong.
Images via Ten Years, The Guardian.