What happens when you ask a group of filmmakers to imagine what life would be like in the future, ten years later? If they’re from Hong Kong, you’d probably end up with Ten Years, a collection of five dystopic short films set in 2025. We’ll be doing a short writeup on each short film below. Check it out:
Extras dir. Zune Kwok
We begin our journey with a black and white film that follows a plot by the triads to stage a political assassination, following the unjust death of a foreigner. It’s a somewhat confusing film, jumping between various viewpoints every few minutes. At times funny, but mostly just very tense, the film allies the audience with the would be assassins, who reveal very personal aspects of their own life as unhappy immigrants and their wish to lead a better life after the plot. Although not the most endearing film of the bunch, it does deliver a strong statement about the value of individuals and immigrants.
This was a slow moving film and the most esoteric one. Season of the End contains an extremely surreal storyline – two preservationists (presumed to be a couple) work together to create artifacts of everyday items, specifically, a man’s home, before one of them decides that to be the ultimate preservationist, he himself must undergo the same process. The message of this film was a little unclear, perhaps expressing anger at how rapid change was occurring in Hong Kong, leaving little time to create memories, and how even the everyday will soon become a part of history. However, this was a very beautifully shot film, that benefited from its indulgences in a desolate, ruined landscape.
Dialect dir. Jevons Au
In 2025, Hong Kong has begun to eliminate the use of the Cantonese dialect, and favours Mandarin (Pu Tong Hua). This applies to taxi drivers, and we follow the day in the life of a taxi driver who has used Cantonese all his life, and now struggles to cope with the new policy and learning Mandarin. The various passengers that get on and off the taxi have different approaches to the policy change, some of whom can switch easily between the two, while others are upset that the driver is incapable of Mandarin. Things get progressively worse, and by the end of the film, he is well and truly alienated when goes to pick up his own son from school (featuring suspiciously Orwellian announcements), and is faced by a group of young Mandarin speaking students. Although simple, this was personally one of my favourites, mostly because it was clear, well paced and the main character felt relatable enough to feel crushingly sorry for at the end.
Self Immolator has a whodunnit type plot trying to figure out who was the person who self immolated in front of the British Council in Hong Kong. We’re introduced to various characters along the way with a myriad of different film styles, from the dramatic to documentary. We meet a young political upstart who dies of starvation while incarcerated, a Pakistani student who supports his cause, her boyfriend who panics when she’s nowhere to be found. Self Immolator tries to touch on many topics, particularly Hong Kong’s relations with China and Britain, making reference to the 1997 transfer of soverignty, as well as migrant issues. It doesn’t always hit the right points, but when it does, there’s a heft to its message, and in particular, these shine through in the ‘documentary’ segments when various figures in the political sphere are interviewed. When the surprise ending reveals the true perpetrator at the end, you’ll be caught off guard, and maybe even moved by the turn of events, leaving behind a powerful statement and call to action.
There’s an air of 1984 in Local Egg. A man runs a small shop while his son participates in his school’s Big Brother-like uniformed group activites. Eventually, the group begins to target even his shop, simply for utilising the word ‘Local’ on his sign for eggs, from a secret list of banned words. Father and son have a small falling out, and we see where their true allegiances lie at the end of the film. Local Egg is a very sweet film about the relationship between father and son, and could be seen as a critique on censorship and other ridiculous policies implemented. It has a hopeful ending, and really gives you a warm fuzzy feeling to end off the entire set of films.
Overall, Ten Years features some overtly political films, underscoring a certain dissatisfaction and fearful outlook that exists in Hong Kong, anxious about how the future might turn out. Despite the pessimistic outlook though, these are all very well made films, and some even have hopeful endings. The true star of these films is the Hong Kong landscape, different aspects of which are featured in each film, from the towering skyline to the disappearing family-run stalls. These shots help tie the films together such that they feel like a cohesive whole, and even if you knew nothing about Hong Kong before, you’ll walk out of the cinema feeling invested in its political scene.
Ten Years will screen during the London Film Festival. Tickets available from here