On Ten Years, the film industry should let bygones be bygones

Controversy over whether the movie should have won the best film award is overblown; what’s important is that it could be freely shown in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 April, 2016, 1:16am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 April, 2016, 1:16am

Never has the film industry been so divided by a single movie. Exploring what might become of Hong Kong by 2025 in five short segments, Ten Years was bound to stir controversy in a society that has become increasingly politically charged. Crowning it the best film of the year at the prestigious Hong Kong Film Awards has sent emotions soaring even higher.

Whether it deserved the top honour is open to debate. Some directors and investors in films said the award was an insult to professionalism and the adjudication process. Politicians also denounced the film as “smearing” the “one country, two systems” principle and advocating for Hong Kong’s independence. There are even calls to overhaul the assessment mechanism, which was already revised not so long ago to enhance credibility.

As admitted by the directors of Ten Years, the film was not the best in terms of artistic value or professional standards. It was not nominated for any other award, unlike Port of Call, which bagged seven prizes. But Ten Years strikes a chord in society in that it reflects people’s worst fears for the future as the perception of Beijing tightening its grip on Hong Kong deepens. Although the film was shown only briefly in selected cinemas late last year, audience response was generally positive. Open-air screenings across several districts drew even bigger crowds last week.

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The movie is politically loaded, with one segment showing scenes of self-immolation to fight for the city’s independence. Another saw Beijing pushing through the national security law by arousing public fear with a political assassination plot. The stories do not seem remotely credible. But that they can be shown here is the strongest testimony of our freedoms under the “one country, two systems” principle.

There are those who believe movies and politics should be kept apart. But growing awareness means more political films may follow. It is not in the industry’s interest to dwell on the controversy further.