Reality bewilders youths

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 May, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 May, 1995, 12:00am

TWO films shown at this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival, Heritage and Curfew , offer an insight into two youngsters' efforts to come to terms with the reality.

One is a light-hearted tale and the other, almost tragic.

The hero in Heritage (1993) is the seven-year-old pure-hearted country boy Baasankhun, who comes to the city for the first time.

Unkempt, carefree and thoroughly rustic, Baasankhun is a daredevil who rambles away with his horses in the endless Mongolian steppes.

But once in town, where he is visiting his uncle, he nearly has an accident because he has never crossed a road before.

Looking out of place in his traditional dress, Baasankhun feels like a stranger in the city. His cousins' world of teddy bears and Mickey Mouse is something strange to him because all he knows is horses and sheep.

'Grandpa says, 'a man should be generous',' he says, and gives away all his money to an old and blind street musician.

This makes his uncle furious.

'In the modern world, one shouldn't feel sorry for anything. It's self-punishment if you do,' the little boy is told.

Worldly wisdom, as Baasanhkun finds out, nevertheless goes hand in hand with power breakdowns and greedy vendors selling milk diluted with water.

Despite his excitement over his first ice-cream, bicycle ride and television show, Baasankhun is miserable. His bewilderment over urban values underlines the film's message that something tender has been lost in the name of modern development.

Curfew (1993) is a sad story about a Palestinian boy, Akram, and his family living under a 24-hour military curfew in refugee camps in the then Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip.

Tear gas and bullets make up life on the streets, while inside Akram's eight-member home it revoles around eating, sleeping and playing backgammon.

Akram's older brother, Rakram, aptly sums up the life in the camp: 'The whole camp is one big prison!' Akram keeps himself busy telling his people whether the soldiers are spraying plastic or steel bullets, which house in the neighbourhood is being searched and how many people have been arrested.

Director Rashid Masharawi, born in a refugee camp in Gaza, focuses on the plight of the people 'who are not free' and who continue to suffer 'because they cannot develop themselves'.

Despite a sad theme, the film has some moments of humour too.

'One year of curfew and we'll send you to Backgammon Championship,' Akram tells his father and his partner.

When Akram's oldest brother is arrested and another curfew is announced, the family does not react - life has to go on.

Although the Gaza Strip is now under Palestinian rule, Masharawi feels the situation has not improved.

Life for the Palestinians in the refugee camps will continue to be the way it has been for many years, he feels.