The director of a fly-on-the-wall documentary film that follows a year of protest by two young Hong Kong activists said last night that the city it depicted was as much a colony today as it was under British rule.
British filmmaker Matthew Torne's Lessons in Dissent charts a tumultuous year of protest by Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Ma Jai two student activists who rose to prominence in 2012.
Speaking after a screening at Metroplex Cinema in Kowloon Bay, Torne offered some insight into his motivation for making the HK$3 million film, which casts its two main subjects in a positive light: "I'd argue that Hong Kong is still now a colony. Sovereign rule has simply moved from London to Beijing.
"It's as if Hong Kong people are children that need to be looked after and can't make decisions themselves. That's what colonialism does,'' Torne said at a post-screening question-and-answer session.
Wong, the outspoken leader of the Scholarism movement against national education, and Ma, a more understated social activist, were both 15 when the film was made. They are former classmates from Ap Lei Chau. Their contrasting styles drive the film's narrative.
The film features original footage Torne and his team filmed of Wong and Ma during key demonstrations and events in 2012. They include the June 4 candlelight vigil, the July 1 pro-democracy march, and major protests against the introduction of national education such as the nine-day occupation of the government headquarters .
"The response has been overwhelmingly positive," Torne said outside the cinema last night.
Wong was 14 years old when he started Scholarism, the student-led movement against the proposed introduction of national education, while Ma dropped out of school at the same age to fight for social justice.
The year 2012 was a particularly tumultuous one in Hong Kong, with the election of a new chief executive and legislative councillors as well as the once-in-a-decade leadership change on the mainland.
After the screening, Torne said he had edited the film with a Hong Kong audience in mind, not an international one.
"At the end of the day, this film is for you," he said. "We wanted to make a film that was a genuine Hong Kong movie about Hong Kong for Hongkongers."
Torne made the 97-minute film from 200 hours of raw footage. He makes no bones about his opinion.
"I believe in democracy and it is a continuing, developing thing," Torne said.
"It doesn't matter if you're Li Ka Shing or a guy sleeping rough in Sham Shui Po, your voice is equal and should be heard."
Torne says his next project will focus on the infamous case of corrupt police chief Peter Fitzroy Godber, which was the catalyst for the establishment of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in 1974.